Traffic concerns overcome allowing New Milford restaurant
Updated 2:10 pm, Tuesday, November 17, 2015
NEW MILFORD — Traffic congestion concerns that slowed a plan to add a fast-food burger restaurant in the Stop & Shop plaza on Danbury Road have been overcome.
The Zoning Commission approved last week the construction of a 2,584-square-foot restaurant in the northern corner of the plaza adjacent to the existing gas station.
The restaurant will be Five Guys, a chain that began in 1986 in Virginia and now has more than 1,000 locations in the United States and Canada specializing in burgers and fries. Plaza owner Wing Biddle has already signed a contract with the chain.
The commission decided flexible bollards, or small posts, should be installed in front of the gas station to control traffic flow around the pumps, striping and signage to indicate a pedestrian walkway and two-way traffic access around the restaurant.
The plaza now has 10 businesses, including a Walmart, Stop & Shop, Stop & Shop gas station and Club 24 Fitness.
The plaza, owned by UB Litchfield LLC, was represented by Paul Szymanski, of Arthur H. Howland & Associates. For months, Szymanski tried to convince the New Milford Zoning Commission that traffic congestion in the plaza will not be adversely affected by construction of the restaurant.
Director of Public Works Mike Zarba recommended redesigning the circulation network of the plaza parking lot. He cited the frequent long line of cars backed up at the approach to the traffic light onto Danbury Road (Route 7) and issues with vehicles turning from parking spots into the central travel lane of the lot.
“With all due respect to Mr. Zarba, he is not a traffic engineer,” Szymanski said at the Oct. 27 Zoning Commission meeting. “We have hired a professional traffic engineer who has a different interpretation of the facts from Mr. Zarba.”
Traffic studies show between 151 to 161 vehicles make a southern turn in the lot during peak business hours. Szmanski said the addition of the restaurant will be minor and manageable.
Zoning Chairman Bill Taylor raised concerns about pedestrians walking through the plaza’s parking lot to get from the Walmart area to the restaurant. Installing a sidewalk along the northern boundary of the lot was suggested, but Szymanski rejected the idea due to large delivery trucks frequently dropping off shipments at Walmart. Despite signage to make deliveries behind the store, truck drivers continue to use the front plaza entrance and drive along the northern boundary, he said.
It was decided striping and signage would be added along the northern border of the parking lot indicating a pedestrian walkway.
“Out of all the shopping plazas in the town, this one feels the most congested and more confusing,” commission member Richard Saitta said at last month’s meeting. “You have a hodgepodge of different parking needs that will be at the tipping point with this new restaurant.”