Shelton P&Z approves letting Walgreens stay open all night

A nighttime view of the Walgreens on Bridgeport Avenue in Shelton.

A nighttime view of the Walgreens on Bridgeport Avenue in Shelton.

The Shelton Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) has approved allowing the Walgreens on Bridgeport Avenue to stay open 24 hours a day, but not without voicing some annoyance.

The Walgreens in the Center at Split Rock shopping center has been operating around the clock since last summer without the needed zoning approval.

Zoning officials didn’t become aware of the situation until recently, and then told the company and property owner that an application had to be submitted. The shopping center is owned by the Blakeman family.

The Walgreens is in a Planned Development District (PDD), a zoning classification that gives the P&Z the ability to control operating hours.

Some P&Z members expressed frustration that a store in a PDD had changed its hours of operation without getting prior permission.

 

‘This starts a slippery slope’

The vote at the Feb. 11 P&Z meeting was 5-1 in favor of the application, with member Virginia Harger voting no.

Harger said allowing a store to be open through the night may have “opened a Pandora’s box for the whole city … This starts a slippery slope.”

There have been issues with retail stores in Shelton extending their operating hours during the Christmas shopping season, especially around Black Friday, the big shopping day on the day after Thanksgiving.

P&Z member Nancy Dickal expressed concerns about setting a precedent by allowing stores to make changes without the proper zoning permission. Dickal said it’s important that store owners realize they can’t away with such behavior.

 

Rogue manager blamed

Stephen R. Bellis, attorney for the local Walgreens and Center at Split Rock property owner, said the local Walgreens store manager had made a unilateral decision to operate around the clock.

Bellis said the store manager saw “a need” to be open 24 hours a day, based on customers waiting to get in the store when it first opened and arriving as the store was closing at night. The store previously closed at midnight.

The Walgreens is at 700 Bridgeport Ave., near Old Stratford Road, and near a cluster of hotels and corporate offices.

 

‘Flabbergasted’

Bellis said the landlord had not been informed of the longer hours, and neither had Walgreens corporate officials. In fact, Bellis said he was the person who first told Walgreens corporate officials about the situation after he was contacted by city P&Z Administrator Rick Schultz about the need for approval.

He said a Walgreens representative was “flabbergasted” at what had happened. He said Walgreens “apologizes” for the situation.

“In Latin, I’d be saying ‘mea culpa,” Bellis told the P&Z.

The company and property owners had not tried to get around the regulations, Bellis told the P&Z. “They weren’t trying to be sneaky,” he said.

 

Some skepticism

A few P&Z members expressed skepticism that Walgreens corporate officials would be unaware of changed hours at a store location.

Harger said it’s difficult to believe a store manager “just went out and did this,” noting the company has a detailed and lengthy manual that covers how its 8,100 stores are to be run.

Ruth Parkins, P&Z chairman, asked if the property owner was aware of the longer hours. Bellis assured her the landlord had not been.

 

After-the-fact fees

Shelton has no ordinance allowing the P&Z to charge higher application fees for after-the-fact applications, which is when someone does something that requires zoning approval without first getting that approval.

Many towns charge higher fees when someone submits an after-the-fact application because it can serve as a deterrent.

Harger suggested Walgreens should perhaps consider making a corporate donation to the Howe Avenue Relief Fund, set up to help victims of the Jan. 6 downtown fire. “It’s a suggestion,” she said.

 

Open 24 hours in Shelton?

There may only be one retail outlet open around the clock in Shelton nowadays.

The Stop & Shop on Bridgeport Avenue used to be open 24 hours for six days a week, but that no longer is the case.

The Shell gas station with a convenience store at the other end of Bridgeport Avenue, on the edge of downtown Shelton, is open around the clock.

 

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