It’s easy to see why those on the west side of Meriden would be not happy with a plan to allow self-storage units to replace the former Stop & Shop in Centennial Plaza. What people want is a grocery store — it’s not much more complicated than that.
From that perspective, the storage unit plan must look like an insult to injury, but it’s also worth pointing out that there’s nothing inherently wrong with the storage unit plan — it’s as legitimate a business concern as any, obviously.
But storage and grocery shopping are entirely different enterprises when it comes to drawing traffic, and that has small business owners in the area worried. That lack of customer traffic was the topic of a three-page letter signed by a host of business owners and sent to city officials. The Zoning Board of Appeals meets Dec. 1.
The owners of Centennial Plaza are seeking a variance to allow for the self-storage facility in a C-2 Zone. The storage units would take over the site of the former Stop & Shop and the former Railroad Salvage site.
Ron Canning, owner of R&R Auto World, told the Record-Journal “he would have no problem with storage units on one site and a grocery store on the other, but not on both sites.”
“I am absolutely opposed to this use,” said Meriden Mayor Kevin Scarpati. “I think it’s an awful use. A storage facility does not bring economic value to that area in our city.”
There have been efforts to get Stop & Shop to stay, and there have been efforts to lure other grocery chains. The ZBA, of course, has to deliberate on the application before it, which is a variance for the self-storage units. If it’s approved, the next step is the Planning and Zoning Commission. So there is opportunity for public comment, which is to be encouraged.
But it’s worth pointing out that the application is not about the loss of a grocery store or getting a new one, but an effort by the owners of Centennial Plaza to do business. That effort deserves a fair evaluation.