AP NEWS

Planning & Zoning Senior community, Panera headed for OK

February 21, 2019

An over-55 residential community on Long Hill Cross Road and a second drive-through restaurant at a new shopping center on Bridgeport Avenue both appear headed for zoning approval.

The Planning & Zoning Commission gave positive consensus votes to both projects at the Feb. 13 meeting, with some dissent in both cases. Staff will now prepare approval resolutions for formal action in the future.

The consensus vote was 4-2 in favor of the Crossroads, a 30-unit age-restricted housing complex at 96 Long Hill Cross Road, next to the Route 8 overpass. Opposed were members Charles Kelly and Mark Widomski, with Kelly indicating he might support the project if more parking is added closer to units.

The consensus vote also was 4-2 in favor of allowing Panera Bread to have a drive-through window at the Fountain Square retail, office and hotel development at 801 Bridgeport Ave. The former United Illuminating site now is being cleared for the project. Widomski and alternate Nancy Dickal were opposed.

The Crossroads is proposed by S&G of Shelton, an entity affiliated with developer Ben Perry. A Planned Development District would be created to allow 15 duplex buildings on an L-shaped 5.5-acre property zoned for industrial use.

The applicant has added another dozen parking spaces for a total of 77 spaces, well more than required, although the lack of two spaces next to all units and the distance from the extra spaces to some units concerned P&Z members.

Each living unit would have one garage space, but not all would have an adjacent second space in the driveway due to the property’s narrow shape.

Widomski said he opposed “squeezing” residential structures between existing factories and next to the highway, indicating the parcel is a bad location “for housing of any sorts.”

Kelly’s concerns focused on the need for more parking closer to all units. Widomski said most units will have two vehicles each.

Member Jimmy Tickey called it “a transitional area” and pointed out the majority of units would have both a garage and driveway space.

Members supporting the proposal said the city needs more senior housing. The complex would be good “for people who want to stay in Shelton and don’t have a lot of options,” Tickey said.

Chairman Virginia Harger said units would be set back from the road, retaining walls should help separate the complex from adjacent non-residential uses, and potential buyers must decide whether the site and design works for them.

“It’s not a bad location at all,” she said.

In revisions, the developer widened the proposed private road from 24 feet to 26 feet and adjusted a hammerhead dead-end turnaround that had raised issues with fire truck maneuverability, ensuring fire marshal and fire chief support.

The Crossroads would be run by a homeowners association, have one small community building, and be limited to people age 55 and older.

Second drive-through

When the 19.1-acre Fountain Square complex was approved, the P&Z had limited it to one drive-through restaurant. That space will be occupied by Chick-fil-A.

But the developer has since secured Panera Bread as a tenant. Panera wants to move from its nearby current location at 850 Bridgeport Ave. to have a drive-through. The developer is seeking to change the wording of the Planned Development District created for the project to allow a second resturant drive-through.

Kelly said “allowing one more is not a big deal” and member Elaine Matto said a limit of one “seems arbitrary to me.” Matto stressed the extra drive-through won’t involve a traditional fast-food restaurant.

Widomski said the commission should stick with its decision to allow only one drive- through, and wondered if more might be requested in the future.

“Where does it stop?” he asked.

Harger said Panera is “changing its model” and now wants drive-throughs at all locations, and any additional drive-through requests at Fountain Square would be decided on “a case-by-case basis” by the commission.

Tickey said Fountain Square will contain a lot of green space and a Panera drive-through wouldn’t “take away from that character” because it was a quality restaurant and represented “an added value.”

But Widomwski and Dickal said Fountain Square was promoted as a pedestrian-friendly complex with a small public pocket park, but having another drive-through would discourage walking.

Fountain Square has been approved for three restaurants, a pharmacy, bank, coffee shop, other retail, a small office building and 123-room hotel. The pharmacy and bank also will have drive-throughs.

Developer representatives revealed the hotel will be a Residence Inn, owned by Marriott, during a presentation. Members didn’t like the hotel’s proposed modern, angular design, saying it doesn’t seem appropriate for Shelton.