Northford Store, drive-through win approval

By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff 08/08/2008
Aug. 8, 2008

NORTH BRANFORD — A plan to rebuild the Northford Store with a new drive-through won approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission Thursday night.

The proposal passed by a vote of 3-2. Commissioners Rose Angeloni and William Galdenzi voted against it, saying they did not agree with the drive-through concept.

Owner Nick Demos applied to build an 8,000-square-foot store with five, one-bedroom apartments on the second floor after the store at 1405 Middletown Ave. burned to the ground in March. The proposal includes a drive-through lane, which would be used primarily for coffee sales, he said.

After feedback from the commission at previous meetings, Demos revised the plans to create a more traditional architectural look. The original store dated from 1870 and was one of the best-known buildings in the area.

But some area residents had raised concerns about the drive-through proposal, saying it would bring more noise and traffic, at public hearings on the application.

At Thursday’s meeting, Angeloni said she agreed with that assessment.

“Anyone who has to drive on Route 17 during the peak hours of when people would use a drive-through, they would find that it would be impossible for anyone to get out of (the store’s parking lot) in a reasonable amount of time,” she said. “The flow of the drive-through, I do not feel, is conducive to the area.”

Commissioner Charles Gunn, who voted to approve the application, pointed out that the nearby Rite-Aid and Wachovia Bank both have drive-through windows.

“I have serious problems denying this applicant a drive-through when each of his neighbors has one,” Gunn said.

An engineer for the project, Jonathan Harriman of Nafis and Young, said he does not think the drive-through will bring more traffic.

“His customers that he’s looking to pick up are people on their way to work,” Harriman said. “This is not going to be a destination to go get coffee.”

Commissioners also discussed whether Demos will need a special-use permit to operate the coffee service, but went ahead with the vote on the assumption that he could later apply for the permit if necessary.

The commission had already granted a special-use permit to build five apartments on top of the store, creating a mixed-use development.

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