Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Future cloudy for proposed VW dealership

By Jason Rowe
Journal Inquirer
September 29, 2006

VERNON - The steel skeleton has greeted motorists entering the town on Interstate 84 and Hartford Turnpike for more than a year.

But what was to become a new car dealership in the southwestern part of town has now become the subject of questions from people wondering if work on the site will ever be finished.

And while she is not certain about the exact reasons for the halt of construction work on the site, Mayor Ellen L. Marmer said Thursday that the steel skeleton has become an eyesore for the town and something needs to happen with the site soon.

Construction of the dealership began around early 2005, but was halted in May 2005 after an undefined legal issue developed. Throughout the summer of 2005, the building's steel skeleton sat untouched near routes 83 and 30, without any signs of construction workers.

But that was expected to change last fall when Gene Langan of Langan Volkswagen gave contractors the go-ahead to restart work on the 3-acre site. At the time, Langan said he expected the building to be finished in roughly six months.

Weeks later, construction workers returned to the site, but most of their work was confined to grounds around the proposed building. No work has been done on the structure in months, and signs of neglect have become apparent with overgrown weeds starting to show up around the proposed building's foundation.

A phone message left with Langan on Thursday was not returned.

Langan and his brother, Glenn, own Volkswagen dealerships in Glastonbury and Meriden and have been looking to expand to Tolland County. The dealership's Web site lists the Vernon location as coming soon and features a rendering of what the new building will look like, once complete.

Last fall, Langan would not elaborate on the legal issues that held up construction in the first place, only to say he was "blindsided" by the snag.

But Marmer and other town sources have said the legal issues might have been the result of another Volkswagen dealer's claiming that the Langans do not have the right to open at the Vernon location. Marmer said she also heard speculation that "money issues" might be a factor in the stalled construction.

"I certainly would hope that they can put something together other than that eyesore sitting around there," Marmer said. "We certainly would like to see them complete their project."

Although she would like to see the new business open in town, Marmer said she would rather see a vacant site than an abandoned steel skeleton.

The site of the proposed 17,500-square-foot dealership sits between Interstate 84 and Hartford Turnpike and is highly visible to motorists entering the town from Manchester on both roads.

Plans for the dealership were approved in 2002, despite strong opposition from a nearby neighborhood group in the Talcottville section of town.

The proposed dealership, which would sit on land that had once been part of Connecticut Golf Land's 18-hole, par 3 golf course, would sell new and used cars and offer automobile maintenance services. The existing golf course was reconfigured to accommodate the dealership.

In response to neighborhood concerns about noise, flooding, and increased traffic, the PZC attached a number of conditions to their approval, including a ban on outdoor speakers and displays involving streamers and balloons.

In response to concerns about the appearance of the building, the Langans abandoned their plans for a metal and glass style structure in favor of a brick, colonial-style building.

The Langans are not the first business owners to have difficulty completing a project in that section of town.

Across the street, Atlas Fence Inc. planned to construct a 2,500-square-foot building to house its business operations at 160 Hartford Turnpike. Construction began in the spring 2003, but didn't get far and the site now sits vacant.

©Journal Inquirer 2006