Developers are aiming to take the old, worn down plaza near the and renovate it to remove everything but the bank to make way for a brand new restaurant. It’s a plan that would only benefit everyone in the community by providing more appealing businesses in the lot across from just south of Loper Street, developers said.
Not so fast.
Residents along Loper Street told members of the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission Tuesday night they are concerned that the plans, while well intended, would negatively impact their property values and lives by creating additional noise, traffic and lighting in the neighborhood.
“I’ve lived (in the neighborhood) since 1976, and the traffic on Loper Street is out of control already,” said Mike Magson, a resident at 52 Loper St. “It takes 20 minutes to back out of my driveway already. What will happen when you add a thriving restaurant.”
The proposed development calls for the demolition of several buildings on the 3.5-acre parcel, including those within the plaza that now houses Queen Street Discount Liquors, as well as a home in the back. The bank would remain as is.
In its place, Michael O’Brien and Galaxy Development, LLC, plan to build a 6,200-square-foot restaurant, said Patrick Doherty, a representative of Galaxy Development.
The restaurant that would come would be a “fast-serve” one and the chain would have an opportunity to lease-to-buy the property over time, said Doherty, principle of MidPoint Engineering and Consulting of Auburn, Mass. The name of the restaurant has not been revealed as negotiations are ongoing and dependent on the commission’s site plan approval.
“It’s not a 24-hour operation and it wouldn’t have a drive-thru,” Doherty said. “What you would see would be something like a Longhorns or .”
Doherty said the plans would include eliminating several of the curb cuts on the property — there are currently six — and a dedicated entrance would be created for the restaurant and the bank. An additional drive-thru lane would be added to the bank, he said, and a two-way entrance would be placed on Loper Street.
Residents including Magson and longtime Loper Street residents Jan and Ewa Olechowski said they are concerned that the new restaurant would bring additional traffic to the otherwise “slow moving plaza” and would also draw noise and headlights late into the evening.
Tenants of the “Three Gardens” 55 and older community, which abuts the plaza to the south, also expressed further concerns that construction and traffic would lead to additional trash and debris being blown onto their property.
Katarzyna Olechowski, daughter of Jan and Ewa, said her parents are concerned that while the restaurant might look nice, it would present ongoing problems and diminish the view behind her parent’s 46 Loper St. home.
The parking lot proposed would include 101 spots for the restaurant and an additional 29 spaces which could be used for the bank.
“Imagine looking out your back window and seeing nothing but a tall building and parking lot right there,” she said.
Doherty said that would not happen with the current plans.
“There is a naturally existing buffer of 120 feet that would be left intact,” Doherty said. “We also plan to build a retaining wall that would be 12 feet high along the main section and reduce to zero at the southernmost part of the property.”
While the restaurant could be busy at times, peak hours are different from the bank and traffic studies show that the plaza’s design would enhance traffic flow rather than diminish it. The proposal would not call for much of an increase in traffic beyond what already exists in the area, Doherty said. Galaxy Development is also committed to working with neighbors to make sure they are happy, said Doherty, who gave his contact information to those in attendance Tuesday.
Planning commissioners on Tuesday said that while concerns are understandable, the plan falls within the town’s planning regulations. Furthermore, while the home that would be taken down was previously used as residential, the property it lies on is already zoned for business.
Commissioners said they would be sure to make sure all adequate buffers are included in the site plan before it is passed, including not only a proper retaining wall, but a 20-foot evergreen buffer to help keep homes separated from the plaza.
The site plan was tabled Tuesday evening and will next be addressed during the Planning and Zoning Commission’s first meeting in February.
The promise by commissioners was hardly enough for residents, however.
“It’s not what (the former property owners) would have wanted,” Magson said.