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P&Z Approves Changes To Church Hill Road Retail Center Plans

Published: August 11, 2017

Following their review of modified plans for a retail center planned for 73-75 Church Hill Road (US Route 6), Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) members have unanimously approved those revisions for the project to be developed by Sunrise Church Hill Road, LLC, near Exit 10 of Interstate 84.

Voting in favor of the plan changes at an August 3 P&Z session were Chairman Robert Mulholland, Donald Mitchell, Roy Meadows, Barbara Manville, and Fred Taylor.

In their motion to approve the plan modifications, P&Z members endorsed a conservation easement designed to protect about one-half acre adjacent to Tom Brook, which runs across the vacant 3.1-acre development site.

As part of its April approval for the developer to rechannelize a section of Tom Brook on the site, the US Army Corps of Engineers is requiring that easement to protect the scenic, vegetative, wildlife, and hydrological functions of Tom Brook, which is a tributary of the Pootatuck River. The easement covers land lying behind the planned commercial building. The property’s owner would be responsible for observing the terms of the easement. As part of the project, the developer would eliminate a switchback turn in the stream, replacing it with a much shorter straight stream section.

The repositioned section of Tom Brook would be flanked by landscaping features and plantings intended to improve the brook’s water quality and appearance.

Philip Clark of Claris Construction told P&Z members that site development work is soon planned for the brook and adjacent wetlands.

P&Z members also approved increasing the size of the planned retail building, including plans to extend the western side of the building by about five feet to the west. Those changes would increase the building’s size from 11,988 square feet to 12,170 square feet. The modifications involve the needs of a tenant that would occupy the commercial space on the western end of the building with a coffee shop, which would have drive-through window service.

The site layout changes result in the number of parking spaces at the site decreasing from 76 to 74 spaces. The site’s main access would be at Church Hill Road. The site’s secondary access point would intersect with Edmond Road.

Mr Clark told P&Z members that the retail project would not be completed until the state Department of Transportation (DOT) realigns the widely offset four-way intersection of Church Hill Road, Edmond Road, and Commerce Road to make it a conventional signalized four-way intersection. In that project, the southern end of Edmond Road would be shifted to the west.

That intersection realignment project is currently scheduled to start in June 2018, provided the DOT acquires certain rights-of-way and obtains necessary permits, DOT spokesman Kevin Nursick said, August 9. The $4.2-million intersection project is expected to be completed in the fall of 2019.

The intersection project, in the planning stages for about 20 years, is intended to generally improve travel safety and reduce traffic accidents along the section of Church Hill Road lying between I-84 and the Housatonic Railroad overpass.

Although a relatively small project, the planned retail center for 73-75 Church Hill Road has been a complex endeavor, considering its location on a congested local road, next to an interstate interchange. Also, the presence of residual chemical contamination from a previous use at the development site requires that a environmental cleanup project be performed to make it suitable for its planned new use.

Last October, P&Z members approved a special permit for the retail project, which would hold five commercial tenants. The applicant received the approval under the terms of the Exit 10 Commercial Design District (CDD) overlay zone, which the P&Z created for that area at the developer’s request. The site has underlying M-5 (Industrial) and B-2 (General Business) zoning.

Using the provisions of CDD zoning allows a project to be built that would not be permitted under the terms of the M-5 and B-2 zoning regulations. Among other features, CDD zoning allows drive-through window service for certain restaurants.

Allowing drive-through window service for restaurants had long been a sensitive topic among local land use agencies. Although banks and pharmacies are allowed to have drive-through window service, restaurants in the past have not been allowed to have such facilities. In 2014, when the P&Z approved the adjacent Wheels Citgo gas station/convenience store at 67 Church Hill Road, P&Z members stressed that no drive-through service would be allowed there. That property is in a B-2 zone.

The Botsford Drive-In, a restaurant at 282 South Main Street, has drive-through window service because that use existed before town zoning took effect in 1958.

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