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April 21, 2019  |  

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Business Zone Text Change Weighed in Old Saybrook

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A proposal to allow gas stations with electric vehicle charging, restaurants with drive-through windows, and increased signage at the Spencer Plains Road has received Planning Commission (PC) approval and awaits a Zoning Commission (ZC) decision, which is expected next week.

On April 2, the ZC closed the public hearing on a petition from 52 Spencer Plains Rd. LLC to add a new overlay zone to the town’s business zone rules. The commission will begin deliberations on the petition, based on information in the public hearing record, at its next meeting on Monday, April 16. At the close of deliberations, the ZC will vote on whether or not to approve it.

The applicant proposing the zoning amendment is seeking a path to gain approval to install a gas station with 16 pumps and 12 electric battery-charging stations along with a fast food restaurant with a drive-through window on the six-acre site at 52 Spencer Plains Road.

The existing zone for the site, B-4 Gateway, currently encompasses business-use properties located near the intersection of Spencer Plains Road near I-95, along State Route 154 near I-95 Exit 67, and at the train station.

The applicant’s petition to the ZC to add the new overlay zone text, if approved, could change the rules for B-4 zone properties, if an applicant successfully petitions the ZC to apply the overlay zone on a given site.

If the overlay zone were approved, it would allow an applicant to apply for a special exception permit for a development on the property with a site plan and design consistent with the new overlay zone’s rules.

First, the new overlay zone would add uses to those currently permitted in the B-4 Zone with a special exception permit. If the proposed text amendment were approved, drive-through restaurants and the retail sale of gasoline fuel and accessories where accessory to an indoor restaurant would be added to the list.

Second, the new overlay zone would allow the placement of additional large, freestanding signs of a size and type not currently allowed in B-4 zones. Signs that are 100 square feet or more are considered billboards in the town’s zoning rules and not permitted in any zone, but the proposed text for the new overlay zone would allow a property owner to install one sign at 200 square feet in size or two signs of 100 square feet in size. The height of any sign including its lighting is limited to 35 feet above grade.

The proposed overlay zone rules would prohibit the use of a property in the new zone as a truck stop.

The petition, when considered under a referral to the Economic Development Commission, was denied; when taken up by the PC, however, it was approved with a one-vote margin.

During the PC referral review, resident Tedd Levy submitted for the record a letter with his opposition to the proposal.

“The proposal does not improve the character of the community nor enhance the quality of life. It does not provide needed or desired services or products for residents; it will require additional costs for road infrastructure, traffic signalization, police and other services, cause traffic congestion that will discourage travelers from visiting town, and endanger pedestrians and cyclists,” Levy wrote. “There is no compelling reason or good cause to approve this proposal to permit a gas station/drive-through restaurant.”

The ZC, now that it has closed the public hearing on the proposed petition for a new B-4 overlay zone, has 65 days to act. The ZC will begin deliberations on the petition at its next meeting scheduled for Monday, April 16 at 7 p.m. in the first floor conference room at Town Hall.

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