Plans unveiled for former Wagner Ford property in Simsbury
By Paul Palmer
SIMSBURY – A local developer has released plans to turn the long vacant Wagner Ford property along Hopmeadow Street in Simsbury into a site with retail and restaurants. Prospect Enterprises, LLC wants to build a Starbucks, a Chipotle, a drive through ATM, and a standalone building that could house up to three shops in the space located adjacent to the Big Y supermarket. Greg Nanni, the GM for Prospect Enterprises, told the Zoning Commission that the company had owned the property since the 1960s and leased it to the Wagner family when they had the dealership at 1263 Hopmeadow.
The Starbucks and the Chipotle will each be about 2,400 square feet while the retail space – which will sit furthest back from Hopmeadow Street – could be 11,600 square feet. In an effort to address concerns with traffic, Paul Vitaliano of VHB Engineering , said the Chipotle will not have a traditional drive through, instead the restaurant will take orders and payment on its App, give customers a pickup time and deliver the food in a drive-up window. If an order is late, the customer will be directed to wait in a parking area.
“The drive-through lines are not as long as traditional ones, and wait times are less than normal,” Vitaliano said. The restaurant will have dine-in and counter takeout as well as a patio area. Starbucks will be a traditional store with a drive through but will have a split in the pickup lanes to decrease any backups. “Cars will not back up to Hopmeadow Street,” Vitaliano said. “We were very cognizant of that.”
To create the new plaza, Prospect Enterprises is seeking a special exemption allowing an increase from 40 to 60% of the impervious surface. Vitaliano pointed out that at the site now, it is well above 80% so even with the increase to the town limit it would still offer a reduction. He also spoke about the new sidewalks that are going in in that area and the need to work together with the planners involved.
Board members raised concerns about any remediation work that might need to be done from the chemicals that could be in the ground from the car dealership. Nanni said that the site had been fully characterized and there is some remediation that will need to be done before they begin any construction. By far the biggest concern raised by members of the Commission had to do with traffic. VHB’s traffic engineer Charlie Baker said their estimates showed that the number of trips would increase by 206 per hour during the morning rush hour, 168 in the afternoon rush hour and 256 during peak hours on Saturday. Those numbers would push the total number of trips being made to the area along Hopmeadow Street to between 520 and 740 per day. “Ten percent will be multi use with folks going to both Big Y and one of our locations,” Baker said. “Another 10% are ‘pass-by’s,’ that is people who are driving by and decided to get a cup of coffee.” He agreed that while the increase in traffic would cause some delays, they did not believe it would have a significant impact on traffic.
Several Commission members disagreed, citing their personal experience of long lines of traffic already in the area. Of significant concern to members was the plan to allow drivers to make a left turn from Hopmeadow Street into the plaza, crossing over traffic moving in the opposite direction. The planned entryway off Hopmeadow, allowing cars in and out, sits just feet from the Big Y entry/exit traffic light. Many concerns were raised about the possibility of backed-up traffic along Hopmeadow waiting to turn in.
“You would need to put a physical median on the street to prevent people from making that left turn,” Baker said. At least one member asked if that entrance could be removed from the plans. The driveway is split with a right turn only exit onto Hopmeadow Street on one side and the other being the entrance that can be accessed from both directions. Customers could also use the Big Y entrance at the traffic light to come and go.
The Public Hearing on the request to allow up to a 50% increase to the maximum coverage allowed in the B-2 zone was continued until the next Zoning Commission meeting on July 17.