P&Z Watch: At Gregorys Coffee, Left Turn onto Rte 1 in Question

At Tuesday’s P&Z commission meeting, a pre-application to replace the bank building with a 1,700 square-foot restaurant/coffee shop at 85 East Putnam Avenue in the LB Zone was discussed.

Back in 20210 P&Z approved a one-story bank building with three drive up tellers at 85 East Putnam Avenue to replace Ku, a 80-seat Japanese restaurant.

The .49 acre property is bordered by People’s United Bank to the east and Toyota to the west.

Located in LB Local Business zone just up Route 1 from the empty Chocoylatte building, which was destroyed in February 2020 when a car crashed into it.

A few doors down sits the empty Starbucks building by Mill Pond, which closed during the pandemic. Interestingly, back in 2016, that particular Starbucks, which operated as retail food establishment – not as restaurant use – was forced by the town to remove seating that exceeded the 12 seat limit. Gregorys Coffee was founded in 2006 in Manhattan by Gregory Zamfotis. They offer coffee, pastries and other baked goods as well as light bites and healthy options.

Attorney Tom Heagney explained that in the existing configuration, customers drive in from the west side – one way in and one way – out with 3 bank teller locations that provide queuing for up to 15 cars.

“We are looking for queuing for 14 cars, 8 parking spaces, and 1 handicapped space for the 1700 sq ft building,” Heagney said. “Gregory’s has a number of locations throughout the area and Washington, DC and they’re all in very different kinds of neighborhoods and facilities. This would be a stand alone building.The traffic pattern would remain same as for the bank building.”

Commission Chair Margarita Alban said the question would be whether the change of use would be from bank to “Retail Food” or from bank to full “Restaurant.”

“We’d be hard pressed to approve a restaurant because there might not be enough parking,” she said, adding that 8 parking spaces would allow for 20 seats.

Alban also noted that the location is highly walkable and asked about pedestrian access.

“People used to always walk to Starbucks before it closed. I don’t see a walkway on the plan.”

Further she said, the commission was concerned about traffic maneuvering.

“It’s an incredibly difficult location to make a left turn,” she said. “I think you’re going to see folks leaving the dance studio come to this location. I do think we need to have a no left turn here.”

Mr. Heagney said in the past, the Dept of Transportation had frowned on “no left turn” exits.

P&Z Director Katie DeLuca said in the past few years that might have been relaxed. She suggested the applicant contact Deputy DPW commissioner Jim Michel.

Ms Alban also urged the applicant to consider their landscaping.

“We are working on this whole greenscape plan for Rte 1,” she said. “Staff can share with you what the idea was for that site.”

Note to readers: This is a pre-application, and has yet to be scheduled for a meeting agenda, so P&Z commission and town planner are unable to answer questions at this time.
The time to comment or ask questions is if and when the application is scheduled for a public P&Z meeting. The idea of a pre-application is to dedicate about 20 minutes to the item during a P&Z meeting so the applicant gets enough feedback to determine whether to pursue an application.

Per CT Gen Stat § 7-159b (2013) pre-applications are non binding.They may not be appealed under any provision of the general statutes, and shall not be binding on the applicant or any authority, commission, department, agency or other official having jurisdiction to review the proposed project.