MONROE, CT — Best in Backyards Monroe, a division of Eastern Jungle Gym, plans to renovate the Woodmarket building at 615 Main St., before relocating there from its current location at 391 Main St.
Best in Backyards sells outdoor amenities, such as decks, pools, gazebos, basketball hoops, trampolines, sheds and outdoor kitchen components. After holding a hearing on the application last Thursday, the Planning and Zoning Commission directed staff to draft an approval to be voted on at a future meeting.
“We’re excited that we’ve got an existing business in town that’s been doing well, and we have an opportunity to further cement their footprint in the community,” Kevin Solli, founder and principal engineer of Solli Engineering in Monroe, told the commission during his presentation of the site plan.
“We’re looking to maintain the building in its current configuration, make some improvements to the parking lot and create some additional outdoor display area that I think could be a benefit to the community and their operations,” Solli said.
Michael Lambert, a professional engineer with Solli Engineering, said the site is about 1.4 acres with two curb cuts to Main Street (Route 25). The parking lot would have a one-way entrance and egress to improve traffic flow.
“It’s a very tight squeeze to park in the front area, so we we’re proposing to eliminate the elevated sidewalk and the ADA ramp,” Lambert said.
He said the front doorway would be removed and relocated to the northern corner of the building, where there would be a new deck, new stairs and a new ADA ramp, near a handicapped parking space.
Patio pavers from the business will be incorporated into the design of a small sidewalk adjacent to the building, according to Lambert.
The rear parking lot would be expanded and a retaining wall built off the northwest side of the building. An outdoor display area would be surrounded by different types of fencing material Best in Backyards sells.
Lambert said the vast majority of the pavement would be removed for the display area, which will appear like a level backyard. In all, the site would have a 6,400-square-foot reduction in impervious surface, he said.
In addition to the outdoor display area, the business would have an indoor display area.
“The building would continue to use the same gas and electrical services,” Solli said, adding existing outside lights are Dark Sky complaint.
He said the three light poles, which have recessed lighting, would be relocated to better illuminate the driveway and parking lot.
Town Planner Rick Schultz noted how the commission had previously approved two text amendments to make way for the site plan application, which “is well organized in its clean approach.”
Schultz also said the Architectural Review Board was pleased with the quality of the materials being used for the project.
“All in all, it’s an upgrade to the site and well thought out and organized,” he said.
“I agree with Rick that the site looks wonderful,” said Nicole Lupo, a commissioner. “I think that it’s a nice layout. I like the one way entrance and the change of the entranceway to the north with the handicapped parking area.”
Domenic J. Paniccia, a commission alternate, said he thinks the project will be a great improvement to the property.
“I think it’s great for Monroe, but I’m concerned about traffic on 25,” said Ronald Schneider, an alternate.
Solli said traffic for this use is “very minimal,” adding it does not require as much parking as a normal retail location.
Best in Backyards would only use the Main Street site as a display location for customers to see what it has to offer, then place orders for deliveries to their homes. There would not be a steady stream of truck traffic from the Monroe store, because deliveries will be made directly from companies and warehouses.
“We’re confident it won’t create any issues,” he said of local traffic.
Robert Westlund, a commissioner, had some concerns over the close proximity to an existing traffic signal, but said the plan looks great to him.
Leon Ambrosey, a commissioner, said that Town Engineer Scott Schatzlein was concerned there is no turnaround for trucks.
Solli said, from an operational standpoint, the site will not have that kind of traffic, adding they expect the rear parking lot to be empty most of the time. But if a truck gets back there, he said the driver could back up and get out.
Ambrosey said he is concerned about safety from drivers backing up.
Solli said they did not want to add a turnaround, and more impervious surface, to the site for something so infrequent.
Ryan Condon, the commission secretary, asked if there will be plantings along the side street, Little Diet Road. Solli said there will be some decorative fencing along it.
During the public comment portion of the hearing, Ronald Bunovsky Sr. said Main Street has a curb cut problem with too many driveways along the state highway. He asked if the Connecticut Department of Transportation commented on the curb cuts.
Solli said DOT permits will be required, so the state agency will be doing a review of the project.