Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Plan for futuristic McDonald's gets thumbs down from town officials

By Kym Soper
Journal Inquirer
July 3, 2007

VERNON - The McDonald's restaurant on Route 83 is looking for more than a facelift as corporate owners are hoping to tear down the existing structure and construct a more modern building complete with two drive-through windows.

But the building's futuristic design is causing concern among the town's Design Review Commission, which is calling for a more subdued, New England-esque look.

Marina C. Rodriguez, town Economic Development Coordinator and planning department staff liaison for the commission, said members have asked that alternative models be presented before the next meeting on July 9.

The proposal now calls for a 4,109 square-foot structure to sit on the site of the existing McDonald's restaurant, located on Route 83, also known as Talcottville Road, bordered by Friendly's Restaurant to the north, a Dunkin' Donuts drive-through to the south, the Interstate 84 exit ramp to the east and a wooded area to the west that slopes down to the banks of the Hockanum River.

The one-story building looks almost cubist in nature with a juxtaposition of large geometric squares and rectangles, and would fit seamlessly in a science fiction movie.

It has a flat roof and exterior sides colored "snow white" and terracotta. Bright yellow striped awnings would shade the windows, and a bright yellow bow element - which looks like a small section of the now famous arch - would prominently cap the building in at least three areas.

The entrances into the parking lot would stay the same, and the yellow trademark golden arch sign would remain at the front of the parcel.

The applicant says that McDonald's corporate headquarters is insisting that all new construction follow this contemporary design, Rodriguez said.

But commission members say that's not necessarily true, citing as an example the McDonald's in Elllington now under construction on Route 83 in the Big Y plaza.

Residents there also balked at the new-age architecture, saying it didn't fit with the town's rural character. McDonald's came back with fresh plans sporting a red brick foundation, beige siding, multi-paned windows, and colonial white columns similar to the existing fast-food restaurant in Tolland.

Those are the types of aesthetics the commission is looking for, Rodriguez said.

"A lot of this is about what you want the character of a community to be," she added.

The application goes before the Design Review Commission July 9. The committee will then make recommendations to the Planning and Zoning Commission, which has scheduled a review of the plans for July 19.

Both panels can insist on changes, but there will be no public hearing as the application is a site modification of an already approved plan of development.

©Journal Inquirer 2007