With homemade signs in hand, about 10 residents silently protested the proposed expansion of the Gulf Station and db Mart on Quinnipiac Avenue during a recent Planning and Zoning meeting.
Protestors’ signs expressed opposition to the site plan change proposal due to concerns of increased traffic in an already busy intersection. One sign read “Can’t make left turn today, won’t be able to turn right tomorrow,” another “Worst intersection in town!”
Owners of the K Brothers, LLC. site at 224 Quinnipiac Ave. were proposing the expansion of the onsite db Mart convenience store from 2,000 square-feet to about 2,730 square-feet including a drive-thru window, and adding a third gas pump island to the existing two.
Commission chairman Vern Carlson acknowledged the signs, saying “I appreciate you're here, I know you're here, and I see your signs … there is no public input here so you know you can't speak, you can hold your signs there, state your presence. We can see that and we understand very clearly.”
The commission granted the applicant a continuance after the site plan proposal elicited some confusion and opposition from the commission, including concerns about traffic from the police chief.
“I think we've heard a number of concerns tonight,” said James Rotondo, an engineer with Godfrey-Hoffman & Hodge Associates representing the applicant. “Can we request that this be tabled to the next meeting, during that time maybe schedule a meeting with the police chief, with staff, see if we can get back to DOT to see if we can get some kind of written comments from them that we could present to the commission?”
The store’s expansion would mean two additions to the existing building, to the western and southern sides, and in addition to the third pump island, all the pumps would be moved to a more central location on the site.
Nadeem Khalid, also representing the applicant, said the proposal comes at a time when the gas tanks need to be replaced, so it seems like the right time to also make this change.
The expansion as presented would mean 17 parking spaces would become 14, and the flow of traffic would be altered on the 0.87 acre property.
Commission members expressed some confusion at the proposed drive-thru window, which was explained to be not only for coffee or to-go food items, but also general convenience store items like milk, candy bars and cigarettes.
“This is a drive-thru window which will serve the people that have been coming to the site for an awful long time,” Scott Hesketh, traffic analyst on the project, said. The applicants explained that they expect drive-thru users would mostly be current customers who may want the ease of access a drive-thru could provide.
In reply to commissioners’ concerns that this would not be an efficient operation, Hesketh said it would likely be self-limiting based on user convenience.
Several commission members and town staff were also not satisfied with the traffic analysis completed on the site, which projected an insignificant increase in traffic volume.
“You're adding drive-thru lanes to add greater convenience for your customers and I don't understand how providing additional convenience for your customers doesn't increase traffic to your store and doesn't increase traffic volume,” town engineer Andrew Bevilacqua said.
Bevilacqua said the intersection is already a problem and any proposal that would increase traffic can only make it worse. He said if the Department of Transportation does get involved in the project, he hopes solutions can be found for the area instead of just allowing the situation to become worse.