PROSPECT — Residents were wary of plans to build a Dollar General on Union City Road during a public hearing last week with the potential impact on traffic being the upmost concern.
Garrett Homes LLC is seeking a special permit to build a 9,100-square-foot Dollar General store at 14 Union City Road, or Route 68. The 1-acre parcel is at the corner of Old Schoolhouse Road, a one-way street, and Union City Road. It’s owned by Joseph and Katherine Sajda, according to land records.
A home and detached garage that are on the property now will have to be demolished to make way for the development. The property is in a business zone, which allows for single-family residential uses. The special permit is needed because of the size of the proposed store.
The Planning and Zoning Commission on May 17 opened a public hearing, which was continued to the commission’s June 7 meeting, on the special permit application. About 30 people attended the hearing. Nearly all the people who spoke during the hearing expressed concerns about the store increasing traffic in an already congested area of town.
“Traffic right now is unbearable,” said John Matteis, who lives across the street from the location of the proposed store.
The plan is to have full access entrances to the parking lot on Old Schoolhouse Road and Union City Road. The access way on Union City Road will have to be approved by the state Department of Transportation, since it is a state road.
A traffic memo provided by BL Companies in Hartford stated that the store is projected to generate about 521 daily trips on weekdays, including 50 trips during peak hours in the morning and afternoon, and 67 trips during peak hours on Saturdays.
“The additional traffic generated by the proposed development is not expected to have any noticeable impact on operating conditions at area roadways in general and the nearby intersections, in particular,” the memo states.
Some residents, however, were not convinced. They said traffic has increased along routes 68 and 69, especially with people cutting through town due to the ongoing construction on Interstate 84.
Matteis said it’s nearly impossible to get out of his driveway between 7 and 9 a.m. unless someone lets him into traffic.
“Unless you live it, you can’t see it,” he said.
Resident Helen Plante said people already cut through side roads to avoid driving through downtown. The store would increase the congestion, she said, and force more cars to cut through side streets.
“I myself avoid the center of town like the plague,” said Plante, who added the store would be better suited for a site that is in a less crowded area.
Resident John Dyckman said people driving on Old Schoolhouse Road cut through the parking lot of a gas station on the corner to avoid waiting at the traffic light. He was concerned that safety could be an issue if people started cutting through the proposed store’s parking lot. He suggested speed bumps be used in the parking lot.
As for the design of the building, the plan calls for a pre-engineered metal building with a brick façade on three of its four sides and asphalt shingles on the roof, explained Douglas Grunert, a project manager with BKA Architects out of Boston.
“We attempted to be sensitive to the surrounding context,” Grunert said.
The building will have windows along the sides facing Union City Road and Old Schoolhouse Road, Grunert said. But the windows will have a gray film over them, he added, meaning people can’t see through them.
The building will be set back from Union City Road, with the front of the building being about where the garage sits on the property now.
Officials questioned what type of sign would be used for the store.
“It’s going to be important for the town,” commission Vice Chair Alan Havican said.
Matthew Bruton, a senior engineer with BL Companies, said the sign needs to get separate approval, and they will follow local regulations. He said he could provide some examples of signs when the commission meets in June.
At the request of officials, Bruton said it wouldn’t be a problem to extend a natural border and vinyl fencing along the east border of the property to provide privacy to the neighboring home and the rear border of the property to shield the metal side of the building from people driving down Old Schoolhouse Road.
Aside from traffic and safety concerns, some residents also argued that a Dollar General store doesn’t fit in with the town’s footprint and character, especially in a location close to downtown.
“Dollar General understands the poor marketing of the word dollar in their name,” Bruton said. “They’re not actually a dollar store.”