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Commission Holds Off on Big Y Decision

The developers of a new Big Y store location in Simsbury's north end already received a rejection from the Design Review Board and will have to wait until September for a decision from the zoning commission.

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.

J A August 01, 2012 at 12:28 AM
This small mentality will not sustain our town. People seem to forget the jobs Big Y means, the tax base increase, the amount of money Big Y (as a corporation) provides to charities, education, and the like. They fail to understand that the employees that they hire will take that income and likely spend it within town (or some portion of it). The objections about studies on what to do with the north end of town, to me, are non starters. What development have we seen, or is in the immediate future for the north part of town. If there is ANY section of town that needs a boost it is the are north of 315. The argument that Big Y takes away from these "plans" also fails for another reason. Had the Wagners kept the dealership open, did a car dealership, truck rental and gas station fit "better" with these "plans" for the north end? As for traffic, the addition of traffic lights in Granby by Stop n' Shop seemed to not cause a problem.. Lastly, I could not believe the comment made about the Big Y roof design. First, I'm not sure about others, but the roofs on the buildings in the existing strip mall are all that spectacular, and second, it's a roof, not a testament to man's ability to overcome gravity. I hope Big Y has the stomach to stay in this. We need the jobs, the taxes, and the boost it would give to an area of town that needs it. A new face lift would be welcome.
J A August 01, 2012 at 12:35 AM
Apologies for two typos above.. It should read "the AREA north of 315" and further on, "existing strip mall AREN'T all that spectacular".
Mary Dmytruk August 01, 2012 at 10:07 AM
It amazes me when people say they want something else besides what is offered. Something else is not on the table. Something else has not been offered during the time the Wagner property has been empty. It seems the choice here is Big Y or an empty car dealership. I would prefer Big Y to the empty car dealership any day.
Steven August 02, 2012 at 04:00 AM
I agree that big y would be a much welcome addition to the north end. As a north end property and business owner, it amazes me at how insulting the town government can be to our area. In the most recent route 10 corridor study the only significant decision made by a very limited amount of people, was that we should build an alternative route to Woolcot Street so the North end and it's business being completely bypassed. Adding insult to injury, these same business with decreases trafwill punts will also have to share in the expense of repairing and maintaining this new road. When is enough, enough! Big Y would be gretin bringing much needed foot traffic. Please let us make the North end a vibrant part of the town, not just a 45 mph highway to the center of town.
Steven August 02, 2012 at 04:03 AM
Sorry for the typos on the above comment; If anyone from patch reads this, it would be great if you could preview your full comment before submitting. Thank you or your patience and consideration
J A August 02, 2012 at 01:54 PM
@Steven... Exactly the point and glad to hear a business owner speak up. They're claim that Big Y some how infringes on "plans" for the North End is not backed by any visible action. What has been done north of 315 that makes Big Y "out of character". The small business owners across Route 10 benefit from both more people visiting the north end, more disposable income from new jobs, and a significant increase to commercial tax base. This whole things brings the whole issue of when there was an opportunity to open up business in the south end of town. Something we ultimately forced the vendors to give up on.
MrLogical August 02, 2012 at 02:07 PM
Is thisth
MrLogical August 02, 2012 at 02:16 PM
Is this the best we can do? Do we really need another gocery store when we already have at least 5 or 6 others (inccluding another B-g-Y) within five miles? It seems like a large grocery store will end up in direct competition with Kane's and probably cause them to close up shop just like Andy's. there are other stores in our end who will also be in trouble Id rather see us protect home town business rather than competing with them and forcing them to close. Governor Malloy has money to attract new businesses. As a fellow Democrat Mary Glassman should talk to him about getting financial help from the state,
J A August 02, 2012 at 03:06 PM
@MrLogical.. This is the "Walmart" argument. Some stores may be impacted, certainly Mr. Kane (although I suspect the area where he makes presumably the most profit, meats, will still attract a loyal following). Other stores benefit from the increased traffic to the area, e.g. Big Y isn't going to compete with Hardware, Nursery, restaurant, specialty shops, etc. For those businesses that may be impacted, perhaps new and more unique businesses will come in to grow and thrive. The whole concept of gentrification is there needs to be a kick start, something that is an anchor for development and growth. Additionally, all those stores local to the proposed site, collectively, cannot hire the workforce Big Y is proposing to hire, nor do any group of them pay the taxes Big Y will add. Everyone looks to someone else for a handout. Where do you think the money Malloy could give comes from? It comes from our taxes, so in essence the state isn't giving it to Simsbury, to some percentage we'd be giving it to ourselves. Also, why should people travel and support Granby's growth (Stop n' Shop) vs. being able to stay in town? We can't keep ignoring the reality that towns around us are providing their residents with larger shopping options, which also help their commercial tax base, and have the potential to be a springboard for additional growth to more stores, than not, around it. Of course we could keep things as is and end up like Brigadoon (google it if necessary).
J A August 02, 2012 at 03:20 PM
@MrLogical.. Just a couple of last points. Big Y had nothing to do with Andy's closing. That parking lot had been getting less and less full for a long time. Should we have criticized Fitzgerald's for becoming a more desirable place to shop, or worse yet, stop them for trying to be the best on that end of town? Also, check what Big Y does in terms of being a good community citizen. They help education, give to charities, support athletics, etc. all at a level individual small businesses cannot. All arguments so far are based on trying to keep Simsbury "small", idealistic certainly, but a prescription for increased personal real estate taxes, or if voted down, ultimately decreased services and support for education (which is one of the things that keeps home values up), etc. It can't be both ways. Either we allow some large commercial ventures to use land (which by the way is already zoned commercial), or bear the tax burden through personal tax. When, can someone answer, was the last time we opened Simsbury to someone looking to make a very sizable investment on this scale?
X August 02, 2012 at 06:01 PM
I am a younger (mid-30's) family man who moved to Simsbury in 2007 with my wife and two kids. I'd characterize myself as middle class...something of an average "Joe". That being said, we initially shied away from Simsbury because of the higher than average property tax, however, we quickly looked past that consideration because of the town's beautiful downtown, athletic fields, and neighborhoods (everywhere) - Simsbury had miraculously escaped the commercialization of suburbia! Bravo zoning commission!! Big companies are not inherently bad, however, they are driven by profit - bottom line profit. Corporations exist to make money and their social conscious is governed by Public Relations agencies that are expert in shaping perception & opinion. Large corporations (like Big-Y with 59 stores & 8,500 employees) do not enhance our community, nor do they provide a unique service. Sure, additional jobs would be welcome, but that math is fuzzy. As mentioned by other posters here local businesses will suffer. Grocery stores like (Kanes, Fitzgeralds, Sunrise Market, etc.) would struggle. Additionally, today's Big-Y supermarkets sell a wide array of products that people would otherwise buy from local shop owners. The following snippet was extracted from Hoovers online: "Some Big Y stores provide child care, dry cleaning, photo processing, and even propane sales, and their delis and food courts offer to-go foods." In any case, all that glitters is not gold.
J A August 02, 2012 at 06:29 PM
@X. Your post talks as though there are two choices "small and quaint" or the "commercialization of suburbia". There is middle ground. We have/had large corporations in Simsbury, The Hartford, and (in its hay-day) Ensign Bickford. Both contributed mightily to some of the very things you point to as desirable. Your argument presumes competition is bad. You list Kane's, Sunrise, Fitzgeralds.. By your logic, zoning should monitor any expansion of one, lest it impact the profitability of the other two. Again, we're talking about a commercial venture in commercially zoned property. What else might you suggest, again commercially, that would fill the square footage left void by the closure of Wagner or should we leave abandoned buildings and parking lots filling with weeds as an attraction to the west as people head north to Granby? There is nothing fuzzy about the math relating to jobs and why should Big Y be "punished" for providing full services to a community. Why is child care while a parent or guardian is shopping such a terrible thing? We used to have a photo shop next to sunrise, should we have forbid CVS from doing film and picture development. If Big Y provides food to go, does that mean you believe that people in Simsbury will stop going to their favorite restaurant. No one is saying to turn Rt. 10 into Rt. 44, but there is significant opportunity to help many of the things you desire in Simsbury, all in one shot, including tax monies to help educational budgets.
J A August 02, 2012 at 06:32 PM
@X, and just to set the demographics clear from this side, we're a lot older than our 30's, raised 3 in Simsbury, and have been here for almost 30 years.
Marcie August 02, 2012 at 07:17 PM
a Lowes would be useful!
J A August 02, 2012 at 08:46 PM
@Marcie. Well we had that offer as well on the opposite end of town, almost to the Avon line and it met with similar potential opposition. They had it planned to be set back from the road and landscaped to make it blend in. May have been Home Depot. Hope we don't lose this as well.
Eric August 02, 2012 at 08:49 PM
I would understand the anti-Big Y sentiment more, if it was ultimately about land conservation. I fully support it. However, the town of Simsbury finds itself in a very sensitive struggle between economic development, and quality of living. That is a wonderful ongoing debate, which usually keeps both sides in check. At what point, will the property taxes be too excessive for the majority, not the minority? If planned correctly. I would support the Big Y grocery store.
x August 02, 2012 at 11:07 PM
I too agree there is a middle ground, however your references to The Hartford and Ensign Bickford are comparing apples to oranges. Both of those companies represent national/global businesses that provide a host of skilled (aka educated, expert) jobs. Additionally, neither of those companies service their customers out of Simsbury. From a zoning/planning standpoint these examples are not comparable to a retail grocery store. Additionally, my fuzzy math reference to job creation assumes that local businesses will suffer, thus eliminating existing jobs. I wholly believe in competition, however, I also believe in fostering a community that respects and appreciates the investment of local business owners. Why? Because these individuals are intrinsically connected to our town's best interests in a way that big companies can't emulate. Also, I do not condone leaving the Wagner property vacant with abandoned buildings and parking logs - your rhetorical questions are neither appreciated or constructive. I don't believe Big Y should be punished for operating a successful business that they'd like to expand...I'd simply prefer that they don't set-up a store in Simsbury. Everyone defers to "it will expand our tax base" as though money solves all problems. It boils down to opinion and what different residents in this town desire; your argument is analogous to defending capitalism. My argument is for preserving the unique identity and charm of Simsbury. Time will tell.
J A August 02, 2012 at 11:51 PM
Eric, Well said. That balance and struggle though has gone on for a long time. We never saw the build up of Powder Forest with professional buildings, we lost an opportunity, as I indicated, on the south side of town, when Home Depot or Lowes was defeated. Again, these are commercially zoned areas, yet we make it difficult for large commercial organizations from coming in. I don't know how long you've been in town, but we've been here long enough to witness the cuts in some school programs, the loss of teaching positions, hours reduced at the library, etc. No one wants Simsbury to lose its appeal, but our neighbors north, south, east, and west, seem to have somehow managed to bring in job producing and tax revenue producing businesses. The analogies between Big Y and Fitzgeralds, could be drawn with Stop N' Shop and Giessler's.. The latter still seems to be doing well. As you say, it needs to be done right (which I fully advocate), but there is a lot of upside potential.
J A August 03, 2012 at 12:08 AM
@X. I don't believe the references to the Hartford/EB are Apples and Oranges.To me, a job is a job, and persons in need of one, would benefit. Big Y is a large corporation and while entry jobs being offered may not be white collar, there is certainly room to advance. Also, The Hartford and EB are multi-national, but they had a local presence in terms of contributions and support within the town which, from what I've read, is also common with Big Y. I don't think the number of jobs that may be at risk is equal to the number of jobs said to be offered, but obviously that is opinion. As for the Wagner property most, not all, opponents are long on preventing use, but short on recommendations that would equal proposals on the table. You are newer in town, so perhaps you've not seen some of the history of this in the past. People may not remember how long it took just to get Cell phone service in town because of the battle on where to put the tower and it wasn't months for that decision. I referenced the expanded services Big Y offered because you brought them to the table in your post. I personally think that having a service to watch the kids while shopping is a pretty good idea and would love to see other stores adopt it. The tax base argument is real, as I said to Eric, some of the cuts in services have been deep, at times..There is a tipping point where personal taxes cannot be raised to a point that home ownership becomes undesirable or unaffordable to fixed income families.
MrLogical August 04, 2012 at 02:47 PM
JA - sounds like they're involved in real estate - would probably be happy if we had the following: Big Y Lowe's Home Depot (one at one gateway and another at the other gateway) A couple more CVS's or Rite-Aids A Cineplex Maybe a McDonalds or two... or a Wendy's Another Subway A few more gas stations A Kohl's or Macy's Another BB & Beyond or similar Another Dunkin' Donuts Maybe another Starbucks... Creep is a dangerous and repulsive thing, and it always starts slowly, innocently and with the best of intentions. I'm sure that's what the town fathers of Newington/Berlin had in mind at some point; or Avon/Canton. We could always be like them.
MrLogical August 04, 2012 at 10:41 PM
Let's build some low-income housing to bring more residents with children to town. Maybe a couple of hundred rental units up at the north end? You know, Obama has a plan to obliterare suburbia as we know it, and he plans to tax suburbanites to finance his urbanization agenda; more infrastructure and transportation (e.g., the New Britain-Hartford busway and the New Haven-Hartford high-speed rail projects to name two...) as well as huge investments in rehabbing existing urban housing projects, and pushing more low-income housing projects into the "near-ring" suburbs - e.g., 'burbs in the Farmington Valley. Did you know that? It's happening now, and it's going to dramatically accelerate if he wins a 2nd term.
MrLogical August 04, 2012 at 10:55 PM
"There is a tipping point where personal taxes cannot be raised to a point that home ownership becomes undesirable or unaffordable to fixed income families." Let's build a couple of hundred rental units at the north end for people with children who can add to the school rolls. That's what Obama wants the suburbs to do; take some of the burden off of the urban centers: http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/312807/burn-down-suburbs-stanley-kurtz
MrLogical August 04, 2012 at 10:58 PM
Do you know who's a big proponent of "regionalization"?* Mary Glassman. * (Ref. Obama's plan to tax suburbs and suburbanites anites as we know them out of existence.)
MrLogical August 04, 2012 at 11:06 PM
Here's some useful background on "regionalization" and so-called "smart growth" vis-a-vis Mary Glassman from 2009. Both terms are now coming to light (as a consequence of Stanley Kurtz's book) as artfully-crafted code words for shifting more of the cost associated with the nation's urban centers to the backs of suburban taxpayers. http://www.cga.ct.gov/2009/PDdata/Tmy/2009HB-06585-R000302-Mary%20Glassman,%20Capitol%20Region%20Council%20of%20Governments-TMY.PDF
MrLogical August 04, 2012 at 11:18 PM
The New-Britain-Hartford busway... The high-speed rail between New Haven and Hartford-Springfield... The "investment" of $270M in "rehabilitating" 1,018 inner-city housing units in CT's major cities... Roughly $2B taxpayer dollars in these 3 projects alone, and all but a relatively small handuful of people in the suburbs are opposed to them. Mere coincidence, or part of Obama's plan of "regionalization" that is beginning to emerge?
J A August 05, 2012 at 12:12 AM
@MrLogical.. I'm not sure who the "they" are in terms of real estate.. I'm also really not too worried about the list you have there... It's a pretty big jump to get from one major grocery store to the list you've got there (Macy's in Simsbury?? I'm thinking not) :-) Just my first observation is that Routes 15 and 44 are a lot different than Route 10. The expanse you're describing would involve multiple towns in concert. I don't forsee creep being the major issue given how much resistance there is to one vendor's plan and the fact that Route 10 can support something like a Big Y (with the proper traffic control) but I don't see the real estate or the state monies to expand Route 10 through several townships to 4 lane any time soon.. That's a lot of property to buy, develop, etc.
MrLogical August 05, 2012 at 02:47 AM
$268 million to rehab' 1,018 housing units. That's roughly $260k invested in every unit. Pretty substantial "investment" of taxpayer money. Of course, Malloy and his Democrat drones will argue that 'only' $25M comes from CT. Small consolation when the remaining 90% comes from Federal tax coffers. Oh wait... that would include us too! (At least for those of us who actually pay taxes.) http://ctmirror.com/story/17071/vacant-buildings-get-cash-infusion-state
MrLogical August 05, 2012 at 03:29 AM
JA: "It's a pretty big jump to get from one major grocery store to the list you've got there (Macy's in Simsbury?? I'm thinking not) :-) ... I don't see the real estate or the state monies to expand Route 10 through several townships to 4 lane any time soon.. That's a lot of property to buy, develop, etc." No one is suggesting it would happen overnight - least of all me. Do you believe the commercial nightmare of Rte. 44, or the Berlin Tpke. happened in a couple of years? Do you think that the consecrated battlefields surrounding Gettysburg were all but completely subsumed by urban sprawl in a couple of years? Commercial creep is insidious and proceeds not by leaps and bounds over a short period of years or even several years, but rather through decades of inexorable acquisition of small properties that beget larger properties that support ever larger projects - all aided and abetted by complicit planning and zoning commissions. Perhaps you won't live to see a Macy's (or any similar department store) built along Rte. 10, but I'd strongly advise you not to bet against it. Time is patient, and the desire to build and develop is persistent and everlasting. 4 lanes on Rte. 10? It's almost a sure thing. The only question is, when? It'sall in the hands of the town offcials as to how committed they are to preserving the qualities that make Simsbury the 'attractive' alternative to life in the Farmington Valley.
J A August 05, 2012 at 06:40 PM
@MrLogical. Some interesting reading in your recent posts. I think it may be expanding the discussion beyond the Big Y decision, but interesting none the less.
MrLogical August 05, 2012 at 07:56 PM
All part and parcel to the same underlying subject and all inextricably intertwined: Namely, what will become of suburbia and how does the Democrat's national strategy of regionalization play a role in dictating planning and development agendas and - not unimportantly - who pays; figuratively and literally. (Hint: Suburbia is where the money is.) None this happens in a vacuum or in isolation, least of all the slow, deliberate march toward obliterating the character of the so-called "near-ring" suburbs. They won't tell you that, but that's where they want to take us. The policy collusion between Democrat-controlled towns and cities and the Democrat-controlled state and federal governments isn't accidental or simply mere coincidence. It's planned.

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