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South Windsor Commission Removes Size Restriction on Grocery Stores in Gateway Zone

Supermarkets were limited to just 22,000 square feet before the provision was removed from the books Tuesday evening.

The South Windsor Planning and Zoning Commission Tuesday evening narrowly approved removing a cap on the size of grocery stores in the Gateway Zone.

The Gateway Zone, which includes The Promenade Shops at Evergreen Walk, had a restriction that no grocery store could exceed 22,000 square feet.

During a public hearing on the matter, Town Manager Matthew Galligan, who requested the zone change to enhance the town’s ability to recruit businesses to the area, said that the initial restriction may have been in place to protect Highland Park Market when it was a tenant in town several years ago.

Highland Park Market was about 22,000 square feet, according to Galligan. Now that the business is no longer in South Windsor, Galligan said that it made sense to lift the restriction to enable him and town staff to recruit other grocery stores or allow current stores in South Windsor to expand into the Gateway Zone.

To give the commission a better sense of how large grocery stores are, Galligan said that Stop & Shop on Ellington Road is about 64,000 square feet, while Geissler’s is 26,600 square feet. Target and Lowe's, by comparison, are 122,000 and 150,000 square feet, respectively.

Galligan also noted that Gateway Zone was the only zone that had such an “irregularity.”

“Twenty-two thousand square feet is not great for a market,” Galligan said.

But two residents - Gary Bazzano and Cindy Beaulieu - spoke out against lifting the restriction entirely.

During their comments to the commission, Bazzano and Beaulieu each said that they favored putting a cap on how large a grocery store could be.

The concern, Beaulieu said, is that a big-box store, like Wal-Mart, which sells groceries, could come in without a cap on store size.

“That’s not the type of thing we want lining Buckland Road,” said Beaulieu, who suggested placing a cap of perhaps 50,000 or 60,000 square feet on grocery stores in the Gateway Zone.

But Galligan said that he did not favor putting a cap on grocery store sizes for two reasons. First, there were other zoning regulations - such as how buildings have to look - that ensure that the right type of businesses open their doors in the Gateway Zone. In addition, Galligan said that any caps would hamper his ability to recruit stores like Whole Foods, if they choose to look at South Windsor. Galligan also said that stores may also want to expand, and the cap could prove to be an unwanted stumbling block.

Galligan also dispelled the notion that Wal-Mart would be interested in opening in South Windsor.

“This is not their market,” Galligan said. “Wal-Mart is not coming to South Windsor.”

The commission ultimately removed the restriction without a cap by a 4-3 vote.

Commissioner Bart Pacekonis voted against removing the restriction.

“The Gateway Zone is our special zone in South Windsor,” he said. “If you remove caps … it becomes like other areas in town.”

Pacekonis said that he was concerned that, because supermarkets generate more traffic, that there should be a cap of about 50,000 square feet in the Gateway Zone.

William Carroll Jr. and Elizabeth Kuehnel also voted against lifting the measure without a cap.

But Chairman Patrick Kennedy, who voted with the majority, said that the best way to ensure that a grocery store is the right fit is through the design regulations.

Lavina Wilson, Mario Marrero and William Butter joined Kennedy in voting to remove the restriction altogether.

Diana December 13, 2012 at 01:41 PM
SW needs a Wegmans!
Michael Sullivan December 13, 2012 at 09:09 PM
Don't think that there’s room on the east side of Buckland even for a 22k s.f. store and certainly not for one bigger. So they must be talking about Evergreen Walk here. But this article refers only to the lifting of the square footage cap – note that those P&Z regs also prohibit a grocery store in the zone from being within 1500 feet of any other grocery store (even if not within the zone!). THAT was the provision put in to “protect” Highland Park Market (and Stop & Shop at Town Center Plaza). Wonder if they addressed that also? If there was interest in promoting any free-market competition? Probably didn’t come up. :-P
Ted Glanzer December 13, 2012 at 11:26 PM
Hi Michael, that is correct that the regs also prohibit grocery stores from being within 1,500 feet of one another. That provision was not addressed at the meeting.
Pam Petersen December 14, 2012 at 02:03 AM
So the Town Council essentially mislead (lied) to the owners of Highland Park Market when they promised all this foot traffic, apartments etc generated from Evergreen Walk, made them conform to strict size and rules regulations (22k sf and 1500 sf) and now P&Z voted to lift these bans so a competitor like Whole Foods could "look at South Windsor"? Don't tell me that Aldi or Wal-Mart won't be "looking" next.
Michael Sullivan December 14, 2012 at 02:33 PM
Thanks Ted. Pam I wouldn’t say that the Town Council misled Highland Park Market – nor would I say that about P&Z, if that’s what you meant. Actually the story with HPM was that they fought to get into the gateway zone as a grocery store was not originally allowed in the zone. And the 22k s.f. size limit was convenient for them as that was the size they were proposing for their market. Finally the 1500 foot radius thing was self-preservation as with that demarcation and the HPM location there couldn’t be another grocery store in the zone – total monopoly in the zone! So they weren’t forced – they wanted it that way… WRT representations about foot-traffic, apartments, hotel, etc. that was all between the developer(s) of Evergreen Walk and HPM. I don’t believe the Town Council should have had anything to do with that.

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