MONROE, CT — A new gas station and convenience store appears to coming to 126 Main St. The Planning and Zoning Commission asked Town Planner Rick Schultz to write a resolution for an approval with conditions for members to vote on at their next meeting.
The applicant, Haque LLC, wants to renovate an existing building for the store and six-pump gas station. It also proposes traffic improvements, such as widening a section of Main Street to add a left turn lane for south bound traffic, and restricting drivers leaving the business to right turns onto Route 25.
Shiraz Choudhary, principal of Haque LLC, has experience running gas station/convenience stores with locations on Black Rock Turnpike and Brooklawn Parkway in Fairfield, in Bridgeport and Old Saybrook, according to his attorney, William Fitzpatrick, of Russo & Rizio LLC.
The 0.96-acre property, which is next to Duchess restaurant, used to be an automotive retail distributer. Fitzpatrick said the current application is only for a gas station and convenience store, adding no auto repairs would be done on the site.
The rendering of a sign for the 4,880-square-foot building says “Swift Fresh Market.” The hours of the business would be from 5 a.m. to midnight.
During deliberations last Wednesday, Chairman Michael O’Reilly said the current building is an eyesore. The plan proposes to renovate it with Heritage Cream colored vinyl siding.
“A big thing to consider too is the fact that we’re going to get a portion of Route 25 widened with other development coming there,” said Secretary Ryan Condon. “I think anything else would be worse traffic than a gas station. A gas station will not bring new traffic. It will bring people who are already there.”
O’Reilly agreed with the applicant that common sense dictates most drivers would make right turns into the business, especially with an existing gas station on the other side of busy Route 25.
But Vice Chairman Bruno Maini said some vehicles will still make left turns into the new gas station and expressed concerns over traffic.
Leon Ambrosey, a commissioner, said he believes there is not enough room for a truck delivering gas to the station to back up and turn around in the parking lot, with the tank’s close proximity to pump six.
“I’d have no concerns if it was a gas station and had more space,” he said. “I have a lot of concerns, because I owned one. People would back into people and get caught between two cars.”
The applicant said gas deliveries would be made after hours, when the station is closed, between midnight and 4 a.m., so no other vehicles would be in the parking lot. Peter Zelken, president of Mystic Oil Company Inc., wrote two letters confirming their agreement on the delivery hours.
“We have reviewed the site plan and sweep path and are confident that the tankers we use will be able to easily enter and exit the premises,” Zelken wrote in a letter dated Feb. 27.
But Ambrosey said the property could be sold in the future and the new owner could use a different delivery company that would deliver gas during the day, when drivers are at the pumps.
“He said he’d deliver overnight and I have all that, but God forbid a truck comes during the day and someone gets killed on that property,” Ambrosey said.
During the hearing, Fitzpatrick said any zoning approval could include a condition in the land records that deliveries of gas only be made when the business is closed, holding all future owners of the property to that restriction.
“It’s in any owner’s interest for it not to come in when there are people at those pumps,” he said.
“You’ve got an eyesore that’s been an eyesore for a long time,” said Robert Westlund, a commissioner. “This is something definitely in the right direction. I understand it’s something that may not be optimal, but we have other gas stations that are smaller. I can envision a truck turning around in that area. We have much smaller gas stations and they do it.”
“It sounds like we’re leaning toward approval,” O’Reilly said, before asking Schultz to draft a resolution for approval with “strict conditions.”
The building would be served by public water and plans were submitted to the Monroe Health Department to construct a new private, onsite subsurface sewage disposal system.
The health department found the plan is in compliance with Connecticut Public Health codes, and approved it. The department also said a food establishment plan review and food license may be required for the convenience store.
Fitzpatrick said the proposed use of the property at 126 Main St. is in harmony with other uses in the Business-2 Zone, is consistent with the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development, will add to the tax rolls and will not discourage other development. He also said it does not add any fiscal burden to the town.
Stephen Santacroce, a professional engineer with Rose Tisio & Co. LLC, said trucks will be able to move well through the site and the dilapidated building will be improved.
He also noted the approval from the Inland Wetlands Commission for the stormwater management plan. Santacroce talked about the soil erosion plan and said there would be “zero light levels” in the wetlands to the rear of the site.
“It sounds like you addressed all the commission’s concerns,” O’Reilly said.
Dominic Smeraglino, III, a commission alternate, asked if the plans include “no left turn” signs in the driveway and Santacroce said it does.
Condon asked about the possibility of losing one of the six pumps and turning the pumps location 90 degrees.
“We thought it was the best layout for the site,” Santacroce said of the current plan.
Rick Smith, of Hillcrest Road, who serves on the Monroe Economic Development Commission, said there have been road rage incidents in the area and any increased traffic delays could add to drivers’ stressful situations.
He suggested adding a middle lane to Route 25 to prevent drivers from trying to go around cars in front of them. “I walk my dog and almost get run over by people going around drivers,” Smith said.
Joel Leneker, of Huntingtown Road, who is president of the Save Our Stepney Task Force, said the architecture is ugly, combining a Butler building with a house.
“I really don’t understand why we’re leaving these ugly buildings up to bring in another gas station,” he said. “They’re going to spend a lot of time and money painting and siding it. It will have a better looking project.”
Leneker also wondered where snow that is plowed would go, and expressed concern about traffic, the wetlands and whether light will “trespass” onto Route 25.
Mary Orsillo, of Stanley Road, said the area of Main Street will need more police with Duchess, the Pond View apartments across the street, and now a gas station. “I don’t see how it will be safe,” she said.
She also expressed concern about the Pequonnock River being behind a gas station with the potential of pollution leeching into it.
Fitzpatrick said the Monroe Architectural Review Board approved the building and he touted the drainage plan for the site, which features a reduction in impervious surface and the installation of water quality separators and level spreaders.
Santacroce said he used to drive down Route 25 to go to work every morning and expressed his belief drivers will go to gas stations along the way, rather than going out of their way to come to a new one at 126 Main St.
Fitzpatrick said cars going south will be able to use a bypass lane to go by drivers waiting to turn left.
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