Zoning board approves three development plans

Stating that the benefits of proposed plans outweigh concerns about them, the Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z) approved at its Aug. 6 meeting a Cumberland Farms and a Hilton Hotel for Rt. 1, and Eli's Restaurant in downtown.

Cumberland Farms and First Hartford Realty plan to construct a 4,500-square-foot convenience store with five dispenser stations totaling 10 gasoline pumps at the former Gloria's Farm Market at 258-266 Boston Post Road. The board voted 8-1 to approve a special permit and site plan, with board member Ward C. Willis voting in opposition,

The 1.12-acre property is located in a triangular wedge bordered by the Post Road, Plains Road and West Clark Street. The site is currently an asphalt slab that is sprouting weeds.

In discussing the proposal, P&Z board members echoed the concerns raised by neighboring property owners with regard to the traffic situation in the area. Board Chairman Mark W. Bender said, “I don't like the left turn into the property from the Boston Post Road.”

City Planner David B. Sulkis advised the board that it did not have the power to eliminate the entry from the Post Road, since it was approved by the state Department of Transportation, but said the city could monitor the situation after Cumberland Farms is built and pass that information along to the DOT.

“The state can review this at any time if they see it's not working,” said Sulkis.

The board did place one condition of approval on the plans, requiring “traffic mitigation measures,” most likely speed bumps, at the rear parking lot entrance to the delivery area of the building, in an attempt to discourage people from cutting across the property to access Bailey Lane.

Hilton Hotel Approved

In other business, the board unanimously approved a special permit and site plan review, allowing the construction of a Hilton Homewood Suites at 1052 Boston Post Road, now the location of a Howard Johnson's motel. Property owner Turnpike Lodge plans to demolish the existing 89-room motel and replace that with a four-story 95-room extended stay hotel.

“I like the change. It's better than what's there, but it will be painful to get there,” said Bender, saying he has observed the effect of construction at East Shore Middle School near his home.

Construction will be preceded by 18 to 24 months of blasting and on-site rock crushing to level the property, which currently has a rapid change in grade from the front to the rear of the property.

The developer would like to lower the rear of the site by 20 to 25 feet by removing rock from the property. The proposed rock crusher would be located 200 feet from the rear property line to minimize the effect on adjacent residential properties.

The project would meet requirements, including having a pre-blast survey of all adjacent properties, seismic monitoring during blasting, and not storing explosives on-site.

The proposal calls for removing 147,000 cubic yards of rocks over an 18-month period with 25 trucks per day moving the rocks out at a rate of three trucks per hour. This would work take place weekdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Commenting on the hotel plan, board vice chairman Edward Mead said, “My only concern is for the residents that abut the property. The work that goes on for 18 months to two years does not make for good relations with the neighbors.”

The developer will also be required to improve pedestrian safety on the property, which links to a Friendly's restaurant at the front.

Eli's Restaurant Approved

A proposed patio on city property triggered a discussion regarding the opening of Eli's Restaurant at 21 Daniel Street, formerly the home of a nightclub named Daniel Street. The board approved the project, which requires a special permit and site plan review, by a 6-4 vote.

Restaurant owner Richard Ciardiello is seeking to open a full-service restaurant with 52 seats and stools with outdoor dining, along with three upstairs apartments. The project requires installation of a kitchen, since the nightclub did not have one. The proposed 876-square-foot kitchen would be built to the left side of the existing building.

Ciardiello would also like to renew a lease agreement the city had with former business owner Richard Conine to use a portion of the city-owned green space between 21 Daniel Street and Café Atlantique as an outside area; in this case, it would be used for dining.

At the July 16 public hearing, area business owners expressed concerns about the project, particularly the use of city-owned property for the patio.

Board member Michael S. Casey said, “The patio is public property. We heard from the public. Their opinion carries a lot of weight in this situation.”

Board member Benjamin Gettinger opened the discussion by saying, “I don't think the board should decide on an application where the applicant does not own part of the land.”

Sulkis responded by saying, “That's fairly routine in developments like this,” citing other projects that involved land not owned by the applicant, including Café Atlantique, which has a patio on the same city-owned parcel that Eli's would like to use.

Muddying the approval process was the uncertainty of whether the lease agreement for the patio would be decided by the city attorney or the Board of Aldermen.

“The decision on the patio will be outside your jurisdiction,” said Sulkis.

Several board members expressed concern that for the three apartments, one two-bedroom, and two one-bedroom units, there will be only two dedicated onsite parking spaces.

“I like the restaurant. I like the idea of the patio,” said board member Daniel Rindos. “I am concerned there is no parking for the apartments.”

The board denied without prejudice the request for the patio, due to the uncertainty of which city agency would approve a lease agreement. A denial without prejudice allows an applicant to reapply without a waiting period, as would be the case with a simple denial.