By Chris Maza
EAST LONGMEADOW – The hearing regarding a proposed gas station on the corner of Shaker Road and Chestnut Street has been continued again.
The continuation of the hearing will take place on April 15 at 6 p.m. in the community room at the East Longmeadow Public Library.
In question is a proposal made by Chalmers Enterprises, LLC, to develop the vacant lot across the street from La Fiorentina with a gas station and convenience store operated by L.E. Belcher Inc., a local fuel supplier headquartered in Springfield with locations throughout Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont.
Chalmers Enterprises is owned by the Davis family, former owners of American Saw. They were also responsible for the development of Great Woods and The Fields at Chestnut.
“There are still a lot of questions that need to be addressed,” Planning Director Robyn Macdonald said. “They meet the requirements for planning and zoning in terms of parking and setbacks and things of that nature, but there are still a lot of questions regarding traffic and stormwater drainage.”
According to the traffic study submitted with the application, there would be an estimated 1,950 trips in and out of the station’s premises on an average weekday.
Robert Peirent, superintendent of the Department of Public Works, was one of the major detractors to the project, stating that traffic studies related to the project were not comprehensive enough and did not factor in the increased potential for vehicular crashes as well as accidents involving pedestrians in the area.
At its regularly scheduled meeting on March 25, the board voted to approve knew ownership and signage for the restaurant currently known as Spoleto, which will change names and menus in the near future.
William Collins told the board that he and the current general manager of Spoleto bought out former owner Claudio Guerra and plans to take the business in a new direction under the name Center Square Grill.
The change would be made as soon as all the licenses are transferred over, Collins added.
“Spoleto had a great run, but in East Longmeadow there are a plethora of Italian choices and I think bringing it back a little more towards the center makes a lot of sense,” he said.
The new restaurant will focus on high-quality seafood and steaks and other meats butchered on site and burgers made with ground beef made on the premises. Collins said a chef from Wildwood, N.J., was hired and relocated to oversee the culinary activities.
“We’ve already seen an improvement in the food and we’re excited to roll out our new menu options,” he said.
Collins said the seating and layout of the restaurant would remain the same because it has “good bones” and any physical changes to the building would be limited to the decor.
The board also voted to recommend several zoning bylaw amendments at the upcoming Annual Town Meeting, including one that would allow medical marijuana dispensaries to operate in the industrial garden district.
Macdonald explained to Reminder Publications
that in addition to that district, there is an exemption allowing them in the agricultural district, but the regulations would require that any cultivation be conducted in an enclosed facility.
According the proposed bylaw, dispensaries would not be permitted within 300 feet of an existing residence or residential district; within 500 feet of any school, church, park – not including the Red Stone Rail Trail – playground, athletic field or youth center; or within 1,000 feet of any school attended by children younger than 18 years old, any licensed child care facility, any drug or alcohol rehabilitation facility, halfway house, or another dispensary.
The board also approved a bylaw amendment that would prohibit businesses from renting out parking spaces.
Planning Board Chair Michael Carabetta explained that the bylaw was recommended by Police Chief Douglas Mellis in order to prevent the creation of satellite lots that would be utilized to bus patrons and employees of a potential casino in the South End section of Springfield.
Planning Board member George Kingston added that without the bylaw, there could be a safety issue. He used the example of the possibility of an increase in robberies committed by people targeting patrons returning to vehicles with their winnings.