Canton commission approves plan for new Subaru facility
By John Fitts
CANTON – With final approvals from the town’ Planning and Zoning Commission, Mitchell Auto Group plans to develop a dealership campus at 91-95 Albany Turnpike that includes a new 34,190-square-foot Subaru showroom and converting an existing building – the former Land Rover dealership – to a Chrysler, Dodge Ram showroom on an interim basis.
The project also calls for the removal of two easterly buildings at 95 Albany Turnpike.
The new Subaru facility st 91 Albany Turnpike (Route 44) was the first “full site development proposal for a new commercial building” to fall in the East Gateway Design Village District under Canton’s form-based code, said Neil Pade, the town’s director of Planning and Community Development.
“We plan to build one of the most aesthetically and environmentally pleasing Subaru dealerships in the country,” Mark Mitchell, president of Mitchell Auto Group, told the commission on Jan. 19.
Project architect Charles R. Nyberg of Schadler Selnau Associates in Farmington noted the process of working with the town to take an initial design and incorporate elements of the code and neighboring structures and while keeping the Subaru marquee and pylon sign.
He showed the commission several examples of the process and various iterations and displayed rendering of how the building would look from various angles, noting features such as a two-story marquee corner element with pyramidal roof, horizontal and vertical bands, gabled ends, circular windows, a standing seam metal roof, board and batten and more.
“The design as presented is, I feel, compliant with the specific requirements in of the based code for the East Gateway District,” Nyberg said.
In presenting the project, professionals working on the plan also noted the extensive outreach with neighbors in residential areas behind the properties to provide adequate landscaping, light shielding and other measures to soften any impact.
That outreach began in October and included meeting with members of the Mitchell family and other representatives, according to the project team. Several residents and area business owners also wrote letters of support for the project.
“From the very beginning people expressed appreciation for the outreach effort and appeared to be very comfortable with the automotive use,” said attorney Robin Pearson of Glastonbury based Alta & Pearson
The plan also includes a cross-walk to the Shops at Farmington Valley and sidewalk that will connect to the Aldi/CVS parcels and the Farmington River Trail
While some commissioners and town staff expressed concern that sidewalks would not be included on the 140 feet on the eastern frontage of the property, members of the Mitchell family said there were safety concerns due to the guide rail and narrow bridge that would have required it be constructed directly along route 44 and without a snow shelf.
Mitchell Auto Group currently operates Subaru at 71 Albany Turnpike and that facility will, post renovation, be used for a dealership that includes Chrysler, Dodge, Ram, and Jeep, Steven Mitchell, vice president of Mitchell Auto Group, said.
The new Subaru building will include a showroom, office space, a service center and car wash for dealership use only.
The application notes that site work could begin by March, with building construction by late fall or early winter.
The hope is to open in late spring 2022, Steven Mitchell said. “We are looking forward to opening up the new showroom,” said Mitchell, who said the Subaru dealership was the first to received eco-friendly status in the state and said many energy efficient features will be incorporated in the new building. “The franchise has grown faster than anyone expected.”
He also said the Subaru will continue to heavily promote Subaru’s Share the Love Program and work with groups like Roaring Brook Nature Center and Farmington River Watershed Association on issues such as native plantings and species migration and preservation.
While the form-based code facilitates a largely administrative application, a public hearing for the 91-95 properties, 7.84 acres in total, was required for two special permits for outdoor display and storage and earthwork and grading.
The commission unanimously approved the project at that Jan. 19 meeting.