WALLINGFORD — The Planning and Zoning Commission is seeking more information from the town’s legal department before deciding on a plan for a car wash on Route 5 next to Colony Diner & Restaurant.
Town staff and many of the commissioners were supportive of an automated car wash at 654 North Colony Road, however, the current plan would not comply with existing zoning regulations covering setbacks, landscaping and sidewalk requirements.
The plan calls for demolishing three buildings on the 1.52 acre property – formerly home to Best Value Home Center and B&B Bennett Painting & Decoration. The buildings predate the town’s zoning codes and have several nonconformities with contemporary rules.
At Monday’s meeting, applicant Gerry Gallo argued that since the new construction would reduce the number of nonconformities the plan is in compliance with town rules allowing the rebuilding of structures that reduce zoning violations.
He referenced a memo written by town Corporation Counsel Janis Small.
“It is my understanding that the application looks to reduce existing nonconformities on the property. A property owner is entitled to rebuild a nonconforming structure and, here, they are looking to do so with a reduction in the nonconformities. Since they are entitled to do so, they do not need a variance,” Small wrote.
Timothy Lee, who is representing local car wash Scrubbin Bubbles in its objection to the development, said he believes the plan isn’t rebuilding an existing structure and needs a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals. The ZBA denied a variance request for the car wash in March
“My client does oppose the regulation ... when my client came before the commission in 2008-09 to get his car wash approved, he was specifically told by the representatives of the town that you need to submit an application that complies with the regulations,” he said. “Would he have liked to have more dryers and more vacuums and more runway and bigger buildings? Absolutely, it would have been great with his business, but he was forced to comply with the regulations just as this applicant should be forced to comply with the regulations.”
Commission Chair Jim Seichter said he could see merit in both arguments and would feel more comfortable with more clarity from the town’s legal department.
Some commissioners also expressed reservations about the number of vacuums proposed, particularly since a number of them would be in front of the building and visible from Route 5.
Commissioner James Fitzsimmons said he thinks the plan is a significant improvement, however, he’d like to see more fine tuning, including the vacuum issue.
“I still don’t think we’re where it needs to be,” he said.
Town Economic Development Specialist Tim Ryan spoke in favor of the application.
“Take a look at what’s there now. We know the site, we know how difficult the site is to develop, not only because it’s got two front yards, but it’s almost triangular in shape,” he said. “In economic development we ... always look for the best and highest use of any site and I will tell you that there’s not a lot of other options for that site.” PZC discusses affordable housing
The PZC also continued its discussion on revising the town’s Incentive Housing Zone to promote affordable housing in the lower downtown area.
Town Planner Kevin Pagini said he’ll be returning to the commission during its July 11 meeting with a revised regulation increasing the permitted density on a stretch of North Cherry Street to 50 units per acre for developments with an affordable housing component. The new regulation will also create a new sub district centered around the intersection of Center Street, Hall Avenue and Route 5, which will allow 40 units per acre for affordable developments.
No developments have used the Incentive Housing Zone since its inception in 2014, though an application from Vigliotti Construction sought to construct a four-story mixed-use development at 28 North Colony Road with over 40 units. The PZC denied the application on March 14, 2022 due to the increase in density and because several other changes to the town’s zoning regulations would have been needed.