After rave reviews, Aldi heads toward approval

Kevin Solli, principal of Solli Engineering, right, presents plans for an Aldi grocery store at 205 Monroe Turnpike to the Planning and Zoning Commission Thursday.

MONROE, CT — Barbara Fahr says she has been a loyal shopper at Aldi grocery stores for over 40 years.

“When we moved to town 16 years ago, I was disappointed there wasn’t an Aldi here — and the closest one was in Orange,” she told the Planning and Zoning Commission during a hearing Thursday night.

Fahr and other residents who spoke may be pleased to hear Planning and Zoning Administrator Rick Schultz will draft a resolution to approve a new Aldi location at Town Line Plaza, 205 Monroe Turnpike, which commissioners will vote on next meeting.

The plaza currently has a Noble gas station and a Panera Bread Café. The 19,677-square-foot grocery store would be built behind Panera.

“It’s a great continuation to add onto that gateway,” Secretary Ryan Condon said during deliberations.

“I can’t think of a better use for the property,” Commissioner Robert Westlund agreed.

“It does fit a need in town for more affordable groceries. I support it,” said Nicole Lupo, an alternate who served as an acting commissioner in Vice Chairman Bruno Maini’s absence.

“I think it’s a gorgeous building too,” Condon added with a smile.

A new location

The Albrecht Family founded the world’s first discount grocery store in Germany in 1961, and opened its first Aldi store in Iowa 16 years later, according to its website. Today, Aldi’s headquarters is in Batavia, Ill., and the chain has grown to more than 2,000 stores across 36 states with over 25,000 employees.

Bruno Lourenco, director of real estate for Aldi, said the chain has 31 stores in Connecticut with three more planned.

Kevin Solli, principal of Solli Engineering in Monroe, represented the applicant for the permit approval amendment modification application for the multi-building development at 205 Monroe Turnpike.

Town Line Plaza has a Noble gas station and a Panera Bread Café with conceptual plans for a 17,625-square-foot retail building and a 10,000-square-foot medical office building.

The application proposes replacing the retail building with a grocery store with 169 parking spaces, of which some would have electric vehicle charging stations.

Overall, Solli said the traffic generation for the proposed use is consistent with what was previously approved.

“What we have before you is truly a great modification from what was previously approved and we’re excited to bring it to town,” Solli said.

The application includes a more detailed landscape plan, according to Solli, who said “a robust buffer” will be maintained for neighboring property owners.

He said the lighting plan calls for recessed lighting that is Dark Sky Compliant, reducing glare.

“We think it’s a very nice building and it’s been enhanced from the prototypical plan,” he said, adding it has glass and architectural interest such as sloping roof lines.

Schultz said the Architectural Review Board, which is an advisory board for the commission, gave the building a favorable letter with recommendations for an enclosure around the dumpster and for light gray trim along the top of the building.

Commissioner Leon Ambrosey asked what the hours of operation would be and Lourenco said the stores are typically open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Sunday, and are closed during some holidays.

“I went to a West Haven store to see what is was like,” Westlund said of Aldi. “It had a smaller footprint and was European inside. It’s something I think the town could benefit from, having a discount grocer, especially on this side of town.”

Lourenco said Aldi considers itself to be a grocery store catering to the needs of working families with children.

“It’s clean and has a nice layout,” Westlund said of the store.

Lupo asked when deliveries are scheduled.

Lourenco said typically one truck per day makes a delivery in the overnight hours, anywhere between 10 p.m and 5 a.m.

“I think it’s a great addition to Monroe,” Lupo said. “I’m an Aldi’s shopper. It’s affordable and has very healthy options for Monroe.”

Public support

Brady Miller, of Spring Hill Road, said he does not oppose Aldi coming to the shopping plaza, but wanted to know about truck deliveries and whether the lights would be on all night, because he has two children sleeping in his house.

Solli reiterated that there is one truck delivery per day and said the parking lot lights go off during the night, though there are sensors, so it can turn back on with activity. He said most lights on the property go off and are on timers.

“I support it,” said Nick Smith, of Highridge Drive. “My wife and I shop there. For me and other people in town it will be a huge help. We go out of town to shop there all the time.”

Fahr said savings are around 40 percent.

While expressing her support for the application, she raved about the products it offers, from grass-fed beef and free range chicken to organic produce. The stores also have other items like clothing, toys, kitchenware, furniture and home decor, she added.

“They were environmentally friendly before it was cool,” Fahr said, mentioning how it recycles its boxes and its customers have been bringing their own bags for 40 years.

She also spoke fondly of the system of putting in a quarter to use a shopping cart and getting it back when you return it, and of Aldi’s employee health initiatives, such as allowing its cashiers to sit while they work, rather than being on their feet all day.

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