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A development firm is proposing the construction of 12,250-square-foot retail center, which would include a Starbucks Coffee coffeehouse with a drive-through service window, at a 3.1-acre site at 73-75 Church Hill Road site, near Exit 10 of Interstate 84.
The firm known as Sunrise Church Hill Road, LLC, which lists Matthew D’Amico of 153 South Main Street as the applicant of record, submitted basic plans for the project on July 12 to the Inland Wetlands Commission (IWC).
The applicant is seeking a wetlands/watercourses protection permit for the project. The IWC is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the development application on August 10.
The Planning and Zoning Commission’s (P&Z) creation of the overlay zone known as the Exit 10 Commercial Design District (CDD) last November set the stage for this development application.
Under the proposal, a 2.03-acre vacant lot at 73 Church Hill Road, which currently has M-5 (Industrial) zoning, and a 1.1-acre vacant lot at the abutting 75 Church Hill Road, which has B-2 (General Business) zoning, would be converted to CDD zoning to allow the construction of a retail center, including a coffeehouse with drive-through window service.
Last year, the P&Z held several public hearings on the Exit 10 (CDD) zoning rules proposal, especially fielding both positive and negative comments from the public on the wisdom of allowing drive-through window service for a restaurant in such a zone. The CDD overlay zone covers sections of Church Hill Road, Edmond Road, and Commerce Road.
Allowing drive-through window service for restaurants has long been a sensitive topic among local land use agencies. Although banks and pharmacies are allowed to have drive-through window service, restaurants have not been allowed to have such facilities. The Botsford Drive-In at 282 South Main Street has drive-through window service because that use existed there before town zoning took effect in 1958.
In its review of the retail development proposal, the IWC would consider the environmental protection of wetlands and watercourses, not zoning issues. If the proposal gains IWC approval, the applicant would then need to obtain a special zoning permit for the development from the P&Z under the CDD zoning rules.
The development site formerly held a dry cleaning business and a gasoline filling station. Both of those uses created some contamination problems at the property. Consequently, that contamination has resulted in the site remaining unused for many years.
The proposed retail development would be designed with the planned reconfiguration of Edmond Road in mind.
As part of a project to improve traffic flow in that area, the state Department of Transportation (DOT) plans to realign the southern end of Edmond Road, shifting that road section westward so that Edmond Road becomes part of a four-way signalized intersection with Church Hill Road and Commerce Road. The existing southern section of Edmond Road would then be removed.
The road project is intended to reduce accidents in that area of town, which has the highest local accident rate due to general traffic congestion and many turning-vehicle conflicts.
The state road reconfiguration project had been scheduled to start in April 2017, but has been postponed to April 2018 to allow DOT planners to redesign a section of the project. The design changes are expected to limit project construction costs to about $4.5 million, according to DOT.
The engineering drawings for the retail center proposal submitted to the IWC indicate that the primary entrance-exit for the project would be a three-lane driveway situated on the north side of Church Hill Road, directly across Church Hill Road from the Exit 10 ramps for eastbound I-84.
That layout would allow the retail complex to position more traffic signals at an existing traffic signal location. Also, a secondary access point for the retail center would connect to the repositioned Edmond Road. That access point would have no traffic signal.
Besides the primary site layout, the applicant submitted two alternate design layouts for the property.
According to the application, Solli Engineering, LLC, of Monroe would perform engineering and Claris Construction, Inc, of Newtown would build it.
Basic plans indicate that a drive-through Starbucks would be positioned at the western end of the retail building, which would have an east-west orientation. The coffeehouse would also have an outdoor seating area.