Simsbury's Planning Commission has delayed making a decision on the proposal to build a Big Y supermarket in the town's north end after a lengthy public hearing on Monday. The commission will again consider the proposal at a a meeting in September.
The meeting room at town hall was standing-room only as residents and town officials gathered for a zoning commission meeting to discuss the construction of a 54,000 square foot supermarket on the site of the vacant Wagner dealership at 1313 Hopmeadow Street. The company announced its plans for the new location in a letter sent to town officials on June 13.
Big Y Foods recently announced plans to build the new store in Simsbury's north end to the disappointment of some and the excitement of others.
Officials representing Big Y Foods have presented the project proposal before the town's design review board three times and their plans were ultimately rejected by the board last week because the board felt that the plans would not serve the interests of the north end community.
The board did not feel the store's plans were in line with the 2007 Plan of Conservation and Development, the Route 10 Corridor Study, and the Guidelines for Community Design. The board recommended the project be reconsidered using the town's planning documents and resubmitted at a later date.
"The Design Review Board felt that this was not a model that we wanted to certainly initiate here in the north end of town and then anticipating that it would be continued on in, perhaps, future developments," board chairman Emil Dahlquist said.
The town's north end has the potential to enhance the town's central business corridor or prove to be detrimental to the Route 10 corridor, Dahlquist said.
Three residents spoke against the proposal criticizing the willingness of town officials to make exceptions to development policies and the negative impact a new supermarket would have on the local economy.
"It seems as if zoning in Simsbury is now regulated by exception and not by rule," John Lucker said. "It's time to start telling everyone that we need to start doing things right again.
Board of Finance member Nicholas Mason said the town's more pressing concern of increased taxes and a steep decline in the town's grand list should be considered. Mason estimates that the addition of the Big Y supermarket would add $250,000 to the grand list.
"It's an important thing that we start to do more development work in the town and start growing the town in a reasonable way so that the taxpayers are not as badly affected as they have been," Mason said.
Bob Kane was concerned with how the addition of another supermarket in the region would affect his small business, , which lies directly across Hopmeadow Street from the proposed location for Big Y.
"It's an emotional thing for me," Kane said. "All these businesses in the north end will be affected. Big Y is huge."
Rick Wagner, whose family owns the property to be sold to Big Y Foods, said he hopes the development will only help the north end businesses.
"I've thought about this day in and day out as to whether this was going to be good or bad," Wagner said. Wagner said traffic has decreased to the north end over the past several years and a business like Big Y would bring consumer traffic back in that direction.
Ultimately the commission voted to close the public hearing on the matter by a 5-2 vote. Amy Salls and Will Fiske were the only members of the commission to vote against closing the public hearing.
The commission will revisit the proposal during the next regularly scheduled Planning Commission meeting on September 10.