Planning and Zoning Commission members debated the architectural design of the Panera Bread restaurant proposed for Town Line Plaza on Monroe Turnpike Thursday, before approving the plan by a vote of 3 to 2.
Chairman William Porter read sections of the Town Plan of Conservation and Development, which outlined the goals of preserving Monroe’s New England and historical character and vegetative features — and he reminded the commission how the town’s zoning regulations follow these guidelines.
“Basically what this boils down to is, when evaluating this application, we’re not considering whether Panera Bread is good for the town,” Porter said. “We all think it would be. But we’re charged to make sure the application complies with our regulations.”
Domenic J. Paniccia, an alternate who was seated for the deliberations, recalled how Panera Bread agreed to go with a pitched roof design and Kevin Solli, the engineer for the applicant, said they would agree to change vertical siding to horizontal lap siding.
During a hearing late last month, Solli told commissioners, if they push for more changes to the building, the restaurant chain is willing to walk away.
On Thursday, Bruno Maini, a commissioner, said he believes the plan meets the regulations. “I’m in favor of it,” he said.
Other than the pitched roof, Porter said the rest of the building looks like a square box. Leon Ambrosey said adding gooseneck lighting would break up the square portion of the building.
“I don’t think, if they build this building, that you’ll hear people saying, ‘the architecture of that building is awful,'” Maini said.
“I agree,” said Vice Chairman Michael O’Reilly. “They didn’t make all the changes we want, but it’s enough.”
O’Reilly motioned to approve the application and Maini seconded it. Maini, O’Reilly and Paniccia voted yes and Porter and Ambrosey voted no.
The Panera Bread with a drive-thru will be built in Town Line Plaza at 205 Monroe Turnpike and the developer sees the nationally known restaurant as a catalyst to attract other tenants to the center, which was approved in 2018.
Currently the property is vacant, but the mixed-use retail development is already approved for a Noble gas station and convenience store, medical office space and a restaurant.
A modification was needed for Panera Bread to replace the restaurant building in the plan, along with a special permit to allow the drive-thru.
A preview board
The 3,245-square-foot Panera Bread building with a 480-square-foot patio will have 49 parking spaces and a drive-thru with a preview board and a menu board.
But Monroe’s zoning regulations currently do not include a mention of preview boards, so the commission’s Regulations Subcommittee will work on an amendment to the regulations to allow it. Then the commission can hold a public hearing and vote on it.
The Regulations Subcommittee will meet at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 6, to discuss the issue.