P&Z Watch: No Zoning Permit for Shell Convenience Store Til Parked Cars Removed

The P&Z commission voted Tuesday night to approve the conversion of three car service bays at the Shell station on the corner of Railroad Ave and Arch Street to a convenience store.

The decision was the final punctuation of another long agenda. The meeting started at 4:00pm and finished close to 11:00pm with the convenience store decision.

The gas station address is 142 Railroad Ave. The owner is 142 Railroad Avenue LLC, which is registered to Royal Hickory Enterprises Corp, based in Florida, according to the CT Secretary of State website.

The existing building was constructed in approximately 1940. What is unique about it, but perhaps not unique to older downtown buildings, is that it encroaches onto an adjacent property, in this case the state owned Metro-North property by about six inches.

The cars parked at left are on state Metro-North property, which extends down the hill and six inches inside the Shell building. June 8, 2022
The property at corner of Railroad Ave and Arch Street encroaches onto state Metro-North property. June 8, 2022
View from Greenwich Train station platform toward Railroad Ave. June 8, 2022
Shell Station on corner of Railroad Ave and Arch Street. June 8, 2022

“There are so many encroachments of buildings, whether it’s Town of Greenwich or anywhere else, that are older, that if you want to tell every property on Greenwich Avenue that they can’t be whatever because of a minor encroachment…it happens,” said applicant’s attorney John Tesei. “These are minor encroachments.”

Not only does the building encroach, but also a shed, stairs, retaining wall and a strip of asphalt. For years cars and trucks have been parked on state Metro-North land. For a time, the property owner did have a lease with the state, but it was not renewed.

The adjacent neighbor to the west is Cadillac of Greenwich, at 144 Railroad Ave.

In 2004, the applicant had pursued a similar proposal to convert service bays into a convenience store, but did not complete the work. At another point there was an application to sell flowers and produce, but that was withdrawn by the applicant.

The conversion to convenience store has already substantially completed, but to get a Certificate of Occupancy they need P&Z commission approval and a zoning permit.

Over the years, Mr. Tesei said there had been a truck rental business operating behind the gas station, and once that ceased, he said, “Cadillac kind of found its way back there.”

“So, yes, we’ll block off any access. Actually…by blocking, which he can, there is no way physically Cadillac can get onto that property. I think that’s what he’s going to do. I think we we’ll be able to clear cars out on that basis.”

“Your decision letter is dead if those cars aren’t gone,” P&Z commission chair Margarita Alban warned. “You don’t get a zoning permit.”

Tesei said the property owner had agreed to remove the encroaching storage sheds, stairs, and landings from the rear of the building, and not park vehicles or otherwise use the state land behind the building, including the strip of asphalt.

The motion to approve included a number of conditions, including removal of encroaching structures, a permanent demarcation of the southern property line to prevent future encroachment, though the commission did not specify exactly what form that demarcation would take. There was talk of using boulders, something green such as arborvitae, a six foot fence, wheel stops, or bollards; staff will work with applicant to finalize that.

The vote to approve with conditions was unanimous.