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Avon commission approves Shake Shack application

Members strongly encourage CT DOT to prohibit left hand turns out of the site

By John Fitts

Staff Writer

AVON – The town's Planning and Zoning Commission on March 12 approved a developer’s application to bring “Shake Shack” to town. The affirmative vote did, however, come with some conditions – as well as a few recommendations members hope will resonate with the state Department of Transportation.

The commission began a public hearing on the matter – actually two applications - the evening of Jan. 30 and closed the hearing on Feb. 20, before finally voting on March 12.

It involved Branford-based Atlas Construction Services' request for a special exception for the construction of a 3,023-square-foot Shake Shack restaurant on the 9.8-acre site at 275/279 West Main St.

The site plan application also includes related infrastructure improvements such as parking areas, landscaping, exterior lighting, and a stormwater management system. All existing buildings on site would be demolished under the plan; the Shake Shack would be built near the front of the site, close to the current commercial building that was the long-time home of Rotondo Pizza House, and later other businesses, including Little Mark’s Big BBQ.

The site plan includes two additional pad sites, but no specific uses were sought for those at this time. However, some aspects of the application, such as the traffic study, accounted for potential uses of those additional pads, one of which was assumed as a 3,964-square-foot restaurant and the other as a 2,000-square-foot retail building.

Conditions of the approval included continued work on a draft conservation easement to the town for a portion of the property as well as a stipulation that the developer work with Hiram Peck, Avon’s director of Planning and Community Development, on a final design of the Shake Shack building.

“I’m happy to work with the applicant to get some good architecture that fits well into the site,” Peck said.

Attorney Robert M. Meyers, who represented the developer, said the applicant is more than happy to comply with those parameters.

Additionally, the commission’s approval contains a recommendation that the state Department of Transportation disallow left-hand turns out of the plaza.

The application proposed using both existing curb cuts for the plaza. The entrance closer to Nod Brook Mall was proposed to be full access with the entrance closest to the Walmart Plaza right-turn-out only.

Commission members, however, disagreed with the idea of allowing left hand turns from those leaving the restaurant, a topic of much discussion during the public hearing installments. The commission acknowledged that CT DOT will have final say on the matter, but most commissioner’s felt strongly that the recommendation should be part of the approval.

“I’ve been reassured by several parties here that DOT would know better than me as to whether that is a safe turn out of there and I have to step down from my position saying I don’t want it to I strongly hope that they say the same thing,” said commission member Joseph Gentile. “I understand there was a restaurant there prior but with the amount of traffic now – especially if the second pad is developed, another restaurant – [there] would be much greater traffic coming out of there. So, odds are that we’ll have an incident based on the amount of traffic coming out and making a left.”

Additionally, the final approval includes a recommendation that the DOT adopt an idea proposed by the development team on the evening of Feb. 20 to add a dedicated left-hand turn lane on Route 44 for traffic entering the business from the east.

Commission member Randall Bowers did not agree with the idea of the dedicated left-hand turn lane on Route 44 since it would result in narrower shoulders along the roadway in the area of the development.

Bowers, however, did support the application, voting yes on the approval overall while noting on the record his disagreement with the one aspect. Joining him in affirmative votes for the project – with some conditions and the recommendations to DOT – were chair Lisa Levin, Vice Chair Peter Mahoney and members Chet Bukowski, Joseph Gentile, Robin Baran, and Chris Graesser.

Meyers said the applicant will also, of course, do whatever the DOT recommends for the site. The application needs that DOT approval for an encroachment permit before the project can move forward.

The approval comes with several other conditions, many of which are standard for development applications. For example, the developer must meet the requirements of the Avon Water Pollution Control Authority, the Farmington Valley Health District and the Avon Fire Marshal when developing the property.

At the meeting, Meyers thanked the commission.

 “Thank you very much for your time and consideration not just tonight but [throughout] the process,” Meyers said.









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