The Town Plan and Zoning Commission is considering a proposal to supersize gas station convenience stores on the Post Road to keep up with the times. Alfred Benesch & Co. submitted a proposal to the Town Plan and Zoning Commission on behalf of property owner Alliance Energy LLC to amend zoning regulations to allow gas stations to include retail stores of up to 5,000 square feet. The current regulations call for stores to be no more than 2,800 square feet.
Ryan Scittorale, project engineer, presented the plan, pointing out that the change supports the town’s plan for redevelopment along the Post Road, particularly improving blighted properties in the area. “Convenience marts have modernized; they used to be small structures where you bought a soda and a candy bar, now they are retail destination centers. Back in the day gasoline was the driving force that brought in the customers but now the mart is the driving force,” he said. Today’s newer marts are typically 3,000-5,000 square feet, with fresh food selections and even sitting areas where customers can sit and work on computers while their cars or electronics are charging.
In a public hearing before the board, several local residents spoke in favor of the plan. Alan Fischer of Fischer Real Estate Inc. and former chairman of the town’s Economic Development Commission said larger convenience marts are the wave of the future. “The expansion of convenience stores to the 5,000 square foot range is common and it’s what people in this line of work are looking for. There’ll be a new dynamic that may take effect if this regulation is modified to meet current standards,” he said. “If we are mindful of current standards the development will take care of itself.” Fischer predicts the change will open up more opportunities along the Post Road like expansion, parcels merging, and property owners more willing to sell. “Support this change, it’s logical and it speaks to the current conditions within real estate and retail development that we see on a regular basis in 2019,” he urged.
Zoning Enforcement Officer Paul Dinice reported the Naugatuck Valley and South Central Regional Council of Governments reviewed the plan and reported the proposal does not appear to cause any negative impact on local municipalities or Long Island Sound.
TPZC voted to keep the public hearing until its March meeting and to solicit input from the town’s department heads and Economic Development Commission. Commissioners also want to investigate why the original regulation calls for a maximum of 2,800 square feet of retail space. “My only hesitation is we are almost doubling the size from 2,800 and maybe one of the concerns is fire safety and distance between the pumps and a larger retail space,” said TPZC Chairman Oscar Parente.
By Laura Fantarella – Orange Town News Correspondent