OLD LYME — For years the town has aimed to prevent a proliferation of “turnpike-oriented” businesses along its main commercial thoroughfare, but this week a judge overturned multiple denials for a new convenience store at the existing gas station on Halls Road, piercing the town’s zoning armor and prompting claims by members of a town committee that adopting their plan would prevent this type of development.
On May 2, CPD Energy Corp. finally won its third appeal in Superior Court to add a convenience store to its gas station at 85 Halls Road after the Zoning Commission denied the company’s applications in 2012, 2017 and 2021.
The New Paltz, New York based corporation is the parent company of Chestnut Mart convenience stores that sell a range of products including tobacco, grocery items and prepared “to-go” foods and beverages.
The project would create a retail convenience store in the existing 1,760-square-foot building containing three vehicle bays previously used for auto service and repairs. Construction will include sidewalks, parking spaces, and a dedicated entrance and exit intended to control the flow of traffic.
Regarding court’s decision to support CPD’s appeal, Superior Court Judge Edward O’Hanlon said that the Zoning Commission did not provide the necessary expert testimony to contradict the conclusions of the traffic study, the safety features of the proposed design and other issues, and that without such evidence the denial was based only on the “opinions of lay commission members.”
The court decision comes in the wake of the Zoning Commission’s narrow denial of the Halls Road Overlay District plan to allow mixed-use, multi-family buildings in the commercial district along Halls Road.
The Halls Road Improvements Committee is expected to resubmit the plan, and apply for a waiver of the statutory 12-month cooling off period after its denial in March.
Referencing the court decision allowing a convenience store, Howard Margules, a member of the Halls Road Improvements Committee, warned in a local online news outlet that by rejecting their plan “Halls Road will likely wind up looking more like Flanders Four Corners in East Lyme, a busy, unattractive hodge-podge.”
Asked by CT Examiner whether the proposed overlay would prevent the construction of additional gas stations or hodge-podge development, as claimed by Margules, the town’s zoning enforcement officer Eric Knapp answered by phone that the existing regulations already prevented new gas stations from being built except by special permit, and as written the new rules were optional for any future development along Halls Road.
Neither Margules, nor Halls Road Improvements Chair Edie Twining, would answer questions by phone. But texted questions asking Margules to clarify the “mechanism” in the Halls Road Improvements Committee plan that would prevent unwanted developed, he released a statement again warning of the development of new gas stations, and suggesting that their plan would offer a more profitable alternative to unwanted development:
Clarification: In further communication, Knapp said Old Lyme’s zoning regulations prevented new gas stations from being built except by special permit.