MONROE, CT — A legal opinion determining the one-acre-minimum needed to create a Special Design District applies to the district a property is in, rather than to the size of the parcel, allowed the Planning and Zoning Commission to approve a proposal for a new Starbucks coffee shop at 255 Monroe Turnpike Thursday night.
The property is 0.89 acres, but the Main Street Design District extends to the center line of Route 111, according to Attorney Vincent Marino, the town’s special land use counsel. This makes the district 1.4 acres, Planning and Zoning Administrator Rick Schultz explained.
Construction of the one-story 2,519-square-foot building with a drive-thru, patio seating and 30 parking spaces at the corner of Monroe Turnpike and Spring Hill Road was approved by a vote of 4 to 1, with Commissioner Leon Ambrosey the lone dissenter.
Ambrosey contends the town regulations say a Special Design District (SDD) must be on a parcel that is a minimum of one acre.
“I don’t know how this commission approves this when the parcel doesn’t meet the requirement,” Ambrosey said. “In order to do this, it should have New England character. This has no New England character,” he added of the building design. “So we don’t even have that. I don’t know how this commission can approve this.”
After the meeting, Schultz said the text amendment establishing the Main Street Design District, which gives flexibility to develop qualifying properties along routes 25, 34 and 111, was petitioned for by Solli Engineering LLC, which modeled it after the town of Newtown’s regulation.
Though the Monroe Planning and Zoning Commission’s past practice is to base applications upon the size of the parcel, Schultz said the commission adopted the MDD with the word “district” in it.
“We’ll have a public hearing to correct it, changing it from ‘district’ to ‘parcel’, which is consistent with past practice,” he said.
Chairman Michael O’Reilly, Secretary Ryan Condon, Commissioner Robert Westlund and Dominic Smeraglino, a commission alternate, voted in favor of the application.
A portion of the property at 255 Monroe Turnpike borders a dead-end section of Spring Hill Road that was discontinued by the town. The applicant agreed to provide access to 365 and 373 Spring Hill Road for those affected property owners by creating a paved driveway, which the developer will maintain.
Condon said agreeing to maintain the driveway went above and beyond being a good neighbor, as well as the agreement to plant evergreens along a fence to be built on its property, providing a more attractive buffer.
“I think after careful review the site size is adequate and it’s a good use of space for a business frequented by residents,” Westlund said. “A paved driveway provided to the neighbors, that in my opinion is generous on the applicant’s behalf. I’m in favor of it.”
“I definitely see both sides of this,” Smeraglino said. “I think the best interests of the town is to go forward.”
The main entrance for the Starbucks will be from Monroe Turnpike with a secondary entrance from Spring Hill Road. The applicant agreed to have proper signage on the property for the drive-thru, to make room for emergency vehicles and to extend a sidewalk along Route 111, connecting it to a Purdy Hill Road property next door.
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