At last night’s Planning & Zoning Commission Meeting, the owner of the Mobil gas station on the property at 46 Danbury Rd.,  presented an initial request for feedback from the commission on a possible changes to the station.

John Burke, who represents the Calitri Revocable Trust, which owns the property, wanted to review with the commissioners his early ideas for a planned spring 2016 site renovation to the gas station.

Town planner Bob Nerney explained to commissioners that because the station will be required by CT DEEP (Dept. of Energy and Envirnomental Protection) to replace the buried gasoline tanks in the next couple of years, the owner is hoping to make the modifications at the same time as the tanks are replaced. He is also hoping to make site modifications to alleviate some parking congestion and traffic flow, including poor tank placement that makes the gas tanker disrupt Rt. 7/Danbury Rd. traffic.

Most significantly, however, the applicant wants to remove the repair garage bays and replace them with an expanded convenience store and retail component.

Because the gas station is located in the design enterprise zoning district for office park zoning, it is currently considered a legal non-conforming business. The applicant wants to make sure the the proposed changes won’t change the property’s status.

As Burke’s attorney, J. Casey Healy from Gregory and Adams, explained, “We’re looking for a path to receive encouragement from the commission … that we can come in with a plan at some point in the future, fully engineered, etc., file the application and have the commission be able to approve it. But we do not want to fully engineer anything until we come to the conclusion that the property is legally non-conforming.”

He pointed out that it was approved as a gas station in the early 1960s and had received various gas-related variances and approvals in the years since then.

Burke is the grandson of the husband-and-wife who were long time owner-operators of the gas station. He said he wants to make the proposed changes to keep up with the way the gas station industry has shifted.

“There’s an existing convenience store, typical of gas stations, and John’s plan would be to simply expand that convenience store, principally because garage bays–there’s problems making them profitable, starting with the biggest difficulties–you don’t have mechanics like John’s grandfather anymore, who worked for private garages. The mechanic schools now, the dealerships recruit the top mechanics, so it’s hard to find good mechanics. More importantly, with the computerization of cars these days, the dealerships control the repair of cars for the most part. You need a computer program to know what to do to service the car. It’s very difficult to maintain the bays. One reason the current operator can is he’s an emission testing facility. But the day of the garage bays in single-owned service station is dying,” Healy explained.

“You see more electric cars, everything is going back to the dealerships, it’s a difficult business. Many other stations have converted bays to convenience stores,” Burke added, noting that emission testing would be discontinued.

Healy compared the plan to the improvements made to the Gulf gas station at 287 Danbury Rd.. “They got rid of the garage bays, put in new gas pumps and a convenience store. It’s kind of the same thing here, although it’s not a total rebuild. It’s simply remodeling but staying in the footprint of the existing building.”

Commissioner John Comiskey commented, “Maybe I’m showing my age, but my first reaction was, we don’t need another convenience store any more than we need another nail salon. I realize that’s not our call here, but in a sense Wilton loses something here. Again I know it’s not our place here. But is there any other proposal that would be beneficial to the residents of Wilton?” 

Healy replied, “It is a catch-22. But the problem is you’ve either got to find a viable option and replace those tanks, or you say I can’t afford it and then we’re in a bigger mess to as to what to put on a .61 acre property that used to be a gas station that’s located in a D-5 zone.”

Healy said they’d report back at some later date in the fall with answers to questions the commissioners had. 

One reply on “Wilton Mobil May Replace Repair Garage with Convenience Store”

  1. I’m not sure where Commissioner Comiskey lives, but speaking as a South Wilton resident who happens to live just around the corner from this gas station, I would welcome a convenience store here. It would be a shame to lose the emissions testing, since that was also convenient. However, I think there’s more to be gained.

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