Old Saybrook Rejects Big Y Gas Station, Citing Shift to Electric Vehicles

Big Y at Max Place in Old Saybrook (Photo: Google Earth)

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OLD SAYBROOK – After members discussed the declining need for gas stations due to the proliferation of electric vehicles, the Zoning Commission rejected a proposal Monday night that would have paved the way for a Big Y gas station on Spencer Plain Road.

Since last year, Big Y has been asking for changes in the town’s zoning regulations so it can construct a gas station and convenience store near its supermarket in Max’s Place plaza at the corner of Spencer Plain and Boston Post roads.

But the commission voted 3-2 to reject the company’s latest attempt.

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The Massachusetts-based supermarket chain has been looking to construct gas stations and convenience stores near its supermarkets to follow industry trends and build a gas rewards program. A similar attempt in Old Lyme failed last year.

In Old Saybrook, the supermarket’s first attempt to change regulations around gas stations was rejected because it would have allowed gas stations as an accessory use to any retail, without special exception review from the committee. 

The second attempt was approved that would have allowed Big Y to move forward with its gas station plans. 

But in May, the Zoning Commission passed its own regulations to require at least 1,000 feet between any new gas stations and an existing gas station. 

The pumps at the proposed Big Y gas station would be 537 feet from pumps at Citgo station on Boston Post Road, the attorney representing Big Y, David Royston said. In response, Big Y proposed four possible changes that would have made the Big Y plans possible.

Zoning Commission Chair Robert Friedmann said that the commission’s change in May that does not allow a new gas station within 1,000 feet of an existing one follows the wording of a regulation that has been in place for nearly 50 years, since 1973.

He said that there have been as many as twelve gas stations operating in Old Saybrook, and there are now seven. With the demand for gas stations in Old Saybrook apparently declining, and the use of electric vehicles increasing, Friedmann questioned why the commission should open up more property in town to be developed as gas stations.

Royston said the regulation was put in place in 1973 because the town didn’t want the area to become “gasoline alley,” and the regulation has accomplished that. Allowing the gas station at Big Y wouldn’t make it into one now, he said.

Friedmann said that there is still room to build a gas station in the shopping center, outside of the 1,000 foot buffer from Citgo – it just wouldn’t be in the location that Big Y wants.