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P&Z Approves Intensified Plans For Exit 10 Retail Center

Published: January 27, 2019 at 08:00 am

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Following a review of revisions to the plans for a retail center at 73-75 Church Hill Road, Planning & Zoning Commission (P&Z) members have approved those changes, granting the applicant a modified special zoning permit, thus allowing intensified development at the site now under construction near Exit 10 of Interstate 84.

The P&Z’s endorsement following a January 17 public hearing, however, was not unanimous, with one member in opposition. In the vote, Chairman Donald Mitchell, Corinne Cox, Barbara Manville, and Roy Meadows approved granting the permit to Sunrise Church Hill Road LLC, but member Jim Swift voted in opposition. 

The modified special zoning permit allows increasing the building size at the 3.3-acre site from 12,170 square feet to 12,227 square feet, adding 39 parking spaces to the previously approved 74 spaces for a total of 113 spaces, installing two remote automatic teller machines (ATM) for an unnamed bank that plans to locate at the center, and approving various commercial signs for drive-through window service for a Starbucks coffee shop that plans to locate there, plus related site grading, stormwater drainage control, and utilities installation.

The property now under redevelopment sits amid a major state Department of Transportation (DOT) construction project that recently shifted the southern end of Edmond Road westward to form a four-way signalized intersection of Edmond Road, Church Hill Road, and Commerce Road. 

P&Z Review

The P&Z’s January 17 approval of certain traffic/pedestrian design changes for the project followed a December 20 P&Z session at which members raised a variety of concerns about traffic/pedestrian safety at the site. 

When the P&Z initially approved the project in October 2016, the developer indicated that the eastern access point would carry both entering and exiting traffic. However, P&Z members learned on December 20 that last April, the DOT decided for traffic safety reasons, that the eastern access point would carry entering traffic only. Although the town Land Use Agency endorsed that DOT action, P&Z members said they were not aware of that traffic design change.

On January 17, Kevin Solli, of Solli Engineering LLC of Monroe, representing the developer, told P&Z members that based on their traffic/pedestrian safety concerns, the developer made certain design changes to the plans. 

“This [traffic] flow, we feel, does work well,” Mr Solli said.

Mr Mitchell questioned the validity of certain zoning variances that the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) granted in 2006 in connection with site development. If invalid, those variances could reduce the number of parking spaces by 11 and cut the number of seats in a planned restaurant by six, he said.

Mr Solli said the developer considers the zoning variances to be valid and sufficient.

Public Comment

Charles Zukowski of Cornfield Ridge Road told P&Z members that if the eastern access point to the retail center were to carry two-way traffic, the project would function better.

Mr Solli said that design changes could be made in the event that two-way traffic is allowed there in the future.

Mr Swift, who voted to approve the project in 2016, said the current version of the retail center would contain “a fundamentally flawed parking lot.”

He added, “I can’t support it. I want to err on the side of safety... I’m just not comfortable supporting it.”

Ms Manville observed that allowing only entering traffic at the eastern access point is safer than allowing two-way traffic there. “The intersection is very busy, “ she noted. 

Mr Meadows also commented that only allowing only entering vehicles at the eastern access point will be safer than allowing two-way flow there.

“I’m still concerned with people walking in the area,” Ms Cox said, but she added that the design changes made by the developer are good ones.

Mr Mitchell said he expects that after they learned on December 20 that the main access point for the site would be limited to entering traffic, it caused “some uneasy feelings” among P&Z members.

“This is a very visible parcel for Newtown... If there are real problems there, some insurers are going to step in and correct it,” he said.

For the full length article, see the January 25 print edition of the paper. Subscribe at https://classadz.vdata.com/NewtownCTCirc/SelectOption.aspx, or purchase at local selling points.

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