Thursday, June 19, 2008

An inconvenient truth

No more convenience stores, some plead

By Mary E. O’Leary
Register Topics Editor
— Whalley Avenue business owners and area residents told city officials Wednesday that they were "convenienced out" and asked that an expanded gas station and new convenience store for the street be rejected.
Traffic, crime, loitering teens and a conflict with a new zoning scheme that attempts to turn the area into more of a traditional neighborhood were all cited as reasons the city should reject a proposal by Gurjant Singh for 308-312 Whalley Ave.
Late Tuesday the commission rejected the proposal without prejudice, which means Singh can come back with an adjusted plan at a later time.
Earlier in the evening, the commission approved a site plan to relocate and expand Colony Hardware at 100 River St., where the business expects to add 100 jobs on the 8-acre site.
The city originally had planned to expand Blatchley Avenue to the Quinnipiac River on part of the property, but instead accommodated Colony’s expansion needs.
On the proposed gas station, Singh already has variances from the Board of Zoning Appeals for the project, but Tom Talbott of the city plan staff said a full traffic study is needed to look more closely at circulation on the property and an easement with an adjacent site.
He also said the plan did not meet the requirements of the new overlay zoning and he suggested the commission might find the store and gas station may be too intense a use for the property.
Peaches Quinn, who was with WEB, a neighborhood group of Whalley, Edgewood and Beaver Hill residents, said there are seven convenience stores in a four-block area on that part of Whalley.
"We are convenienced out," said Quinn, who said the plan conflicted with property owners’ attempts to revitalize the area. "There is no promise of intent to abide by the vision we have for Whalley Avenue," she said.
The several organizations that spoke said they represented about 100 people in the area.
Rick Raymond, the engineer who worked for Singh, said new lighting and cameras would be installed in the interest of safety.
George Rose, an elderly resident of Whalley Avenue, spoke for most of the crowd when he said the issue was "quality of life." He equated convenience stories with drug dealing and prostitution. "To expand it would be a disservice to this community," he said.
Mark Franklin, the owner of Colony Hardware, said his move to River Street almost wasn’t feasible because of the high cost of steel and concrete, but then he found a substitute material for the 800 piers needed to support the foundation.
Helen Rosenberg, of the economic development office, said the former site of Hess oil tanks is a problematic property, with its contaminated soil and other shortcomings, but it will now be put to productive use.
The commission was not happy that the building had to be set so far back from the street and parking placed in front, but it understood it was because of the limitations of the site and the soil conditions.
Rosenberg said a viewing platform can still be built as part of 50-foot public greenway that will run along the river on the edge of most of the properties on River Street and Franklin will underwrite the cost of a fishing pier at Poplar Street.

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