Proposed Whole Foods Parking Lot Would Overlap Setbacks In Old Saybrook

The plan for Whole Foods at 1654 Boston Post Road includes 240 parking spaces. (Carpionato Group)

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OLD SAYBROOK – Parking may be a concern as the owners of a Boston Post Road shopping plaza attempt to prepare for Whole Foods, which has signed a lease to open a store in Old Saybrook.

Bringing in Whole Foods will require some changes to the plaza, said David Taglianetti, vice president of development of Carpionato Group, which owns the shopping center at 1654 Boston Road, in a presentation to the Zoning Commission Monday night. 

“What comes with signing a tenant like Whole Foods – they’re very demanding and they have a very demanding parking requirement,” Taglianetti said.

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He said that Whole Foods will require an expansion of the building and a new facade, pavement and landscaping. The project will also reconfigure the locations of Alforno Trattoria and NAPA Auto Parts in the shopping center. 

The plans will need approval from the Zoning Commission to bypass regulations that require a 25-foot setback between the road and the parking lot, Taglianetti said. Currently, there is essentially no buffer between the lot and the road, and Whole Foods is proposing to add about 10-15 feet of a landscape buffer, he said.

It isn’t possible to extend that buffer to 25 feet because the space in the parking lot is needed to meet Whole Foods’ strict parking requirements, which call for 240 spaces in the lot, or 6 spaces per 1,000 square feet of building area.

“The only way we can get them to sign the lease is to promise them 240 spaces in this front lot,” Taglianetti said. “The only way for us to meet that is to eat into that 25-foot buffer setback, understanding that it’s a better setback than what exists today.”

The proposal also includes an expansion of nearly 12,000 square feet to allow for a 40,000 square-foot space for Whole Foods. Zoning Commission Chair Robert Friedmann said the proposed nonconformity with the parking setback is “by choice” because they could fit enough parking within the required setback if they did not expand the building. 

Friedman said the parking itself also didn’t comply with regulations because there were areas with more than 15 spaces in a row that were not interrupted by an “intervening landscape.” 

Overall, Taglianetti said the proposal would triple the amount of landscaping in the property.

Taglianetti said that Alforno Trattoria will move to the other end of the shopping plaza, and there will be room for another restaurant next to it. He said his firm is also negotiating letters of intent with other retailers to fill the retail space not taken up by Whole Foods and NAPA.

Taglianetti said Carpionato Group had discussions over the summer about buying surrounding residential lots to expand its parking lot, so that it could keep the “outparcels” within the shopping center for potential development – such as the drive-thru restaurant they floated to the Zoning Commission last year.

He said neighbors were understandably not thrilled about the idea of a parking lot expansion, so the group abandoned those plans as well as plans for the outparcels. The project will now need that space they previously planned to use for a drive thru to meet Whole Foods’ demand for parking spaces, he said.

The presentation on Monday was a preliminary discussion, and Taglianetti said his firm plans to  submit a formal application to the town in November or December.