Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Wrangle over sidewalks could thwart Wine Sellers expansion

By Kym Soper
Journal Inquirer
March 20, 2008

VERNON — The Planning and Zoning Commission approved the Wine Seller’s bid to expand last week, but a wrangle over sidewalks could derail the entire project.

Developers want to raze the gray clapboard liquor store at 1189 Hartford Turnpike and build three storefronts in its place.

Bordered on the east by Vernon Pizza, the 1.53-acre parcel is situated in a commercial zone east of West Street and Bamforth Road and west of Route 31.

Only one commercial building is on the property, which houses the Wine Seller.

According to planning documents, the owner, Spirit Development Co. LLC, wants to build two new commercial buildings east of the existing package store — one 3,840 square feet and the other 1,560 square feet — and move the Wine Seller into the larger of the two structures.

Developers then would demolish the existing 1,758-square-foot Wine Seller building and rebuild another storefront on the same footprint.

The project would be done in two phases, with the Wine Seller remaining open throughout.

Town Planner Leonard K. Tundermann said tenants of the new buildings are as yet unknown, but the owner has been advised to consult with the Planning Department first before signing any leases.

A small wetland exists in the northwest corner of the site, but that portion of the parcel was the subject of redesignation approved in November 2007.

The site will be landscaped with rain gardens in that area and the southeast corner. Plans call for drought-tolerant plants to be fed with rainwater collected by a drainage system within the Hartford Turnpike lot.

Under the current plans, only the existing parking lot would be repaved. It wouldn’t need to be enlarged unless a restaurant opens in one of the storefronts, Tundermann said.

Commission members required that the buildings retain a “country motif in keeping with the rural” community.

They also required the builder to install sidewalks — something that does not now exist and could be a deal breaker.

Duane Jones, a Tolland-based developer, told commission members that the owners of the Wine Seller, James and Alice Branco, objected to that condition and could abandon the project as a result.

Jones asked to have the matter placed on Thursday’s agenda for further discussion, but Chairman Lester Finkle told Tundermann the PZC doesn’t want to revisit the subject as it has no plans to reverse its decision.

Jones said he was meeting with the Brancos today and they would decide what to do then.

“They’re very upset,” Jones said of the owners. “It’s a $1 million project that could be lost over $25,000 sidewalks. It’s just a shame.”

Copyright © 2008 Journal Inquirer