Drive-thru dooms Shelton convenience store plans, for now

Exterior of Shelton City Hall, in Shelton, Conn. Jan. 11, 2021.

Exterior of Shelton City Hall, in Shelton, Conn. Jan. 11, 2021.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media

SHELTON — Concerns over the use of a drive-thru have stalled — but not quashed — one Shelton resident’s plan to open a deli and convenience store in the vacant Huntington Plaza building which once housed a bank.

The Planning and Zoning Commission, at its Zoom meeting Wednesday, voted 3-3 on David Ghazal’s application to open a deli and convenience store at 5 Huntington St., which has been vacant for the past couple of years.

The developer said he will amend his plans and return with answers to their questions.

Commission Chair Virginia Harger and fellow members Ruth Parkins and Charles Kelly voted against the plan, but the entire commission agreed they welcomed the concept. Harger, Kelly and Parkins denied the proposal because of the proposed use of the drive thru, which was used previously by the bank, they said.

“I do not think a drive thru will work at this location,” Parkins said.

Those who approved the plan also voiced concern about the use of the drive thru, and the potential for long lines of traffic affecting the plaza’s larger parking area. But the trio said the application was sound and zoning department staff could work with Ghazal on any drive thru issues.

Plans call for redesign of the 2,619-square-foot interior, with display cases, a deli counter and two tables for indoor dining.

Ghazal said his plan would be to use the drive thru only for pickup of preordered items. He said this would done to “keep the employees and customers safe” during the pandemic.

Those denying the plan sought more details on how — whether through signs or other means — Ghazal planned to keep people from driving into the drive thru and attempting to order.

“One of the things that attracted me to this location was the drive thru. I want people to feel safe during these times, even making our convenience the best user-friendly by developing a mobile application for ordering,” Ghazal stated in his application. “If a customer decides to order through line, we will dedicate a spot for them to park and have a runner run out their order to avoid any lines.”

Commissioner Jimmy Tickey told Ghazal not to be discouraged and come back with an altered proposal.

Ghazal told Hearst Connecticut Media that he plans to return with a revised plan. Having lived in the city for more than two decades, Ghazal said his goal is to “make Shelton a better place, a better community” and hopes his business, if approved, would help do that.

In other business, the commission unanimously approved Good Guys Development LLC’s request for a zone change at 0 Petremont Lane to a Planned Development District.

Good Guys Development LLC, owner of the 2.1-acre site, is proposing a building with 47 apartment units — six of them designated as affordable in compliance with state of Connecticut requirements — and 93 parking spaces.

In all, there will be 22 one-bedroom units, 15 one-bedrooms with an office and nine studio apartments, according to the proposal. The building would also have a meeting room, gym and storage.

During the public hearing process, the commission voiced no concerns with the site plan, focusing instead on the possible impact on Petremont Lane, which is a tight roadway connecting Coram Road to River Road. Petremont Lane’s intersection with Coram Road is close to the intersection with Constitution Boulevard South, an already congested traffic area.

Planning and Zoning Administrator Alex Rossetti said if the PDD is approved, no certificate of occupancy would be granted for the building until the roadway is improved.

Rossetti said Petremont Lane will remain two-way, and the intersection is still going to have an island or other traffic calming measure. But because it is a city street, Shelton is likely going to engage the services of an engineering firm to make sure work is done “the best way possible,” he said.

Good Guys Development had originally submitted plans for a 56-unit apartment complex with 113 onsite parking spots, but reductions in the scope were made during the public hearing process.

Petremont Lane is just off River Road. The property abuts a nonresidential area and a residential area, and, according to the application, the purpose of the PDD is “to allow the construction of an apartment building to accomplish a transition between single-family use and an established nonresidential area.”