OLD SAYBROOK – The town’s Zoning Commission voted 3-2 to approve a change that will allow gas stations by special exception in the B-4 zoning district, which includes much of the commercial areas around the I-95 exits at Spencer Plain Road and Middlesex Turnpike.
The change paves the way for Big Y to propose building a gas station near its store on Spencer Plain Road on Monday night, though the grocery chain will still need to have the commission approve its specific plans.
The commission voted 3-2 to approve a regulation change that will allow gas stations by special exception in the B-4 zoning district, which includes much of the commercial areas around the I-95 exits at Spencer Plain Road and Middlesex Turnpike.
This was the second attempt by Big Y to change the regulations to make way for a gas station in the Max’s Place Plaza, near the intersection of Spencer Plain and Boston Post roads. An earlier proposal that would have allowed gas stations as an accessory use to retail in the B-4 zoning district was unanimously rejected by the Zoning Commission in January because it wouldn’t give the commission oversight of proposed new gas stations.
David Royston, the attorney representing Big Y, came back with a proposal to allow gas stations by special exception, which means any new gas station would need to be reviewed and approved by the commission.
Now that the regulation change has been approved, Big Y and Max’s Place plan to apply for a special exception to connect the property at 12 Spencer Plain Rd with the shopping center to build a Big Y-branded gas station and convenience store there, Royston has said. It’s part of the grocery chain’s ongoing efforts to build gas stations near its supermarkets for its gas-rewards program.
In a letter to the commission, Old Saybrook resident Tedd Levy said the plans for a gas station on that property would damage the streetscape that was carefully developed when the shopping center was approved, will not fit with the neighborhood, will add another hazard to the Spencer Plain Road-Boston Post Road intersection, and will be redundant because there is already a gas station less than 1,000 feet away.
Royston and commission Chair Robert Friedmann said those concerns would be relevant when Big Y actually applies for a special exception for the gas station, but aren’t relevant to the regulation change.
But Levy also said that by opening the possibility of gas stations in other B-4 zones, the regulation change could lead to the same concerns in other parts of town as gas stations are proposed. A regulation change that could benefit one business could also have negative consequences for the rest of the community, Levy said.
While the change to a special exception convinced a majority of the commission, Friedmann was still not convinced it was wise to expand where gas stations could be proposed in Old Saybrook – voting “no” along with Vice Chair Mark Caldarella.
“Over the course of time in Old Saybrook, we’ve seen gas stations come and go,” Friedmann said before voting against the application. “We still have gas stations elsewhere, and this would allow gas stations by special exception in other places than where we already have them.”