Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Out with an oldie, in with the latest for McDonald's in Vernon

By Kym Soper
Journal Inquirer
March 15, 2008

VERNON - There may be nothing but a pile of rubble there now, but come June a new McDonald's restaurant will open on Route 83, sporting a futuristic design that was initially shot down by a town committee.

Last August the Design Review Commission rejected the contemporary design, saying it preferred a more subdued New England-esque look.

But the application fell through the cracks and was approved by default because the Planning and Zoning Commission didn't act within the statutory time limits, town officials say.

The commission, at the time, was embroiled in two large land use disputes: Home Depot and Capstone. And it had just lost its town planner, Neil Pade, who resigned to take a similar job in Canton in July.

The new planner, Leonard Tundermann, didn't come on board until October.

Walsh Enterprises, which owns the McDonald's restaurant on Talcotville Road, first filed its application with the commission June 21.

It was sent to design review for comment July 9, and the commission issued its recommendations by early August. But design review has no regulatory authority and the application returned to the PZC where it was placed on the Sept. 6 agenda.

The statutory 65-day deadline to act on an application expired Aug. 26, however.

The applicant's lawyer, Solomon Kerensky, who was recently appointed to the town's Economic Development Commission, filed for immediate approval by default. That was granted Oct. 4.

Last week workers began razing the 40-year-old structure, which is bordered on the north by a Friendly's Restaurant, a Dunkin' Donuts to the south, an Interstate 84 exit ramp to the east, and a wooded area to the west that slopes down to the banks of the Hockanum River.

According to Michael Walsh, a principal of Walsh Enterprises, the old building was the last red and white tiled McDonald's built in the United States. Because of its age and for safety reasons, it needed to be replaced, he said.

The famous golden arches at the entrance to the parking lot will remain.

Once construction begins, it should take about 90 days before the new 4,109-square-foot restaurant can open.

The style is known as "Forever Young," and the one-story geometric shaped building will be painted snow white and terracotta on the square and rectangle walls. It will include two drive-through windows, and have bright yellow striped awnings to shade the windows.

A bright yellow bow element - which looks like a small section of the now famous arch - will prominently cap the building in at least three areas.

The contemporary design is the only one now allowed by McDonald's corporate headquarters, which insists that all new construction follow that model, Walsh said after design review rejected the plan.

Altogether, Walsh Enterprises owns and operates eight local McDonald's restaurants, including one in Ellington that recently opened on Route 83 in the Big Y plaza.

Residents in that town also balked at the new-age architecture, saying it didn't fit with the town's rural character. The Walsh family was able to come up with an alternative design that included a red brick foundation, beige siding, a copper-topped cupola, multi-paned windows, and white columns.

That colonial-type model is no longer available, though, Walsh said at the time.

©Journal Inquirer 2008