OLD LYME — Two longtime business owners on Halls Road are concerned about the potential consequences of a proposed Big Y Express gas station and convenience store slated for connecting properties at 99 Halls Road and 25 Neck Road.
The application for the project is on the agenda of tonight’s Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission special meeting at 5:30 via Webex.
The commission will decide whether or not the project will have significant impact on the wetlands and vernal pool on the properties. If the commission decides the project will have significant impact then a public hearing is required no later than 65 days after the decision. If no significant impact is found, the public has the right to petition for a public hearing on the matter.
Andy Shah of Andy’s Deli & Marketplace at 19 Halls Road, said the increase in car and truck traffic from I-95 will not benefit the local community.
“Halls Road is on an exit of 95 but it’s more for local people to do their business — go to the post office, go to the bank,” he said. “[With this project,] they’re going to get off the exit, take a pit stop, go to the bathroom, buy something, get gas and get back right back on I-95.”
Shah said he lost 50 percent of his coffee business when the Dunkin Donuts opened at 83 Halls Road a few years ago. The Big Y Express will add further competition because of the corporate advantage of economies of scale.
“Obviously, it’s gonna hurt me and I might be out of business because I know I can’t compete fairly and evenly. I’m not selling gas so I can’t compete. They have volume prices but I’m a one-man show, right? I have one store and it’s going to put me out of business,” said Shah, who has owned Andy’s since 2003.
Brett Enman, of Treasures located at 95 Halls Road, said it was not in the best interest of the community for Essex Savings Bank, which owns the property, to allow a gas station to be built there.
“Half of the people are going to say, ‘You took open space and you turned it into a gas station that’s open all night, that doesn’t serve the community,’” Enman said.
He said one solution was to buy the two parcels and turn them into open space.
Jennie Enman, said she was surprised that the Halls Road Improvements Committee hadn’t addressed the fact that open property was available at 99 Halls Road.
“If we’re trying to beautify — and for all of the energy going into renderings and concepts — I would think that having a virgin piece of land would be top priority. And as soon as this goes, there isn’t another opportunity to have that. So, a town fundraiser — make it a park, make it open space,” she said.
Brett said that no one has rallied to save the property even though the town has a wealth of open and preserved land.
“I just feel like in a town with this kind of resources, I can’t believe that nobody has come to that point before this,” he said.
He said the decision to sell or lease the land to a gas station falls solely at the discretion off the Essex Savings Bank board.
“If they said, ‘No, sorry, we can’t stand behind that,’ then it would be dead. So every bit of animus that comes from this conversation having to go forward falls squarely on them,” he said.
The nearby Shell station at 85 Halls Road has applied twice to add a convenience store and been turned down both times by the Zoning Commission. Michael Downey and Amar Jamal, of the CPD Energy Corp, which has leased the Shell Station since 2008, presented a summary of their plans to add a convenience store Economic Development Commission meeting on the Jan. 8, 2020, but have not reapplied for a permit.
Shah said that if the Big Y Express project is approved with a convenience store, then the town will be obligated to approve one for the Shell station.
‘If you allow one company to do that then how are you going to deny the other company? So then you will have two gas stations and they’re going to compete, and then we’re going to have more people, more traffic. I just don’t see any value added,” he said.
Enman also said the town has done a poor job of overseeing the Shell station and that he had zero confidence the situation would improve with a second gas station.
“So now I’ll stand here sandwiched between two gas stations, neither one of which will be regulated in any way. You’re going to let these guys be open all night? Because you didn’t let those guys be open all night?” he said.
Every merchant is looking for ways to be part of the community, which makes the bank’s decision “appalling,” Enman said.
“Is there anything that is more opposite than a member of the community doing another gas station, which doesn’t serve the community?” he asked.
Shah said he has made it a point to serve the community over the years. Each year he purchases advertising in the local schools’ programs and yearbooks.
“I know most of my customers by name,” Shah said.
Click here to join the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission meeting at 5:30 p.m. via Webex.
or call 1-408-418-9388 to join by phone — use meeting number 179 192 1607 and meeting password 9G3jygJCdM6.