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Neighbors Support Home Depot Application

Home Depot wants more display and sales areas and extended hours on Sunday for Home Depot, BJ’s and Aldi

A small group of energized citizens attended a public forum Thursday night at Elmwood Community Center to discuss an application by Home Depot to add outdoor display and sales areas and to extend Sunday evening business hours for Home Depot, BJ’s Wholesale Club and Aldi grocery store.

It appeared there was no opposition from the dozen area residents, most from New Park Avenue.  But several questions were posed specifically about outdoor storage sheds that Home Depot hopes to display.

Attorney John Mallin, representing the three businesses in the plaza anchored by Home Depot, gave a detailed explanation of their application to the West Hartford Town Council. Home Depot is asking to be allowed to sell plants in the front of the store, to display about a dozen storage sheds in one area of the parking lot, and to erect a plant corral of shrubs in a more central area of the parking lot. In addition, the application also asks that Home Depot, BJs and Aldi be allowed to stay open an extra hour on Sundays, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Mallin showed photos of other Home Depots in the state depicting the garden areas, which Mallin said would be seasonal, from April to July, and the sheds, whose doors, explained the Hartford attorney, would face away from the travel lanes and would be bolted down and left unlocked for safety reasons. He also said the store would paint crosswalks for safety.

These display and sales areas exist at every Home Depot in the state except for the store in West Hartford, Mallin emphasized.

At the construction entrance to Home Depot, bulk items such as fencing and larger machinery would be lined up to allow for easier transport. Seasonal items such as snowblowers and grills would be stationed outside the entrance to the store and shrubbery and trees in the plant corral area would be tagged for pickup in the regular pickup area.

Mallin said the extension of business hours by one hour is of interest to all three stores. It is particularly sought by Aldi, a grocery store whose shoppers like the later hours.

Questions were asked about how large the sheds would be -- 7x7 is the typical size, said Jonathan Wilder, Home Depot operations manager -- and how they will be maintained -- Home Depot would be responsible for safety and cleanliness, Wilder said.

Jeff Feldman, who resides on Sidney Avenue, spoke in support of Home Depot, saying that years ago he was opposed to Home Depot’s entry to the neighborhood, but he now believes they are “good neighbors.”

“I walk my dog on Flatbush Avenue and the area is always mowed,” said Feldman. “I’m in favor of the additional hour and the plants outdoors.”

His wife, Carol, thanked Home Depot for offering land adjacent to their parking lot for the proposed use of a dog park. Dog park advocates withdrew their application in response to neighborhood opposition and the dog park is no longer an issue in this application.

Mallin said that in addition to the dog park application having been permanently withdrawn, the retailers have gone a step further and have put restrictions in place stating that nothing can be approved for use on that land for 15 years.

“It will stay a green area for the next 15 years, until April 30, 2026,” added Mallin.

Also dropped from the application is a request for additional signage by BJ’s Wholesale Club, said Mallin.

Mallin announced that the Town Council will continue a public hearing on the Home Depot application on Tuesday, April 26, at 5 p.m., followed by a meeting at which he hopes the application will be approved. He urged supporters at Thursday’s meeting to email Town Council members to express their support. If the application is approved, Mallin said, Home Depot could implement these changes immediately, because there is “pent-up demand” for plants and garden supplies.

Caroline Gaetano April 25, 2011 at 05:00 PM
It is interesting that in the span of several weeks the West Hartford Place Condominium is moving from a position of leasing the land to the Town as a goodwill gesture to asking the Council to impose a 15 year restriction on the land. Looks like a backroom deal between the business owners to get the silence and support for the proposed extended hours and outdoor displays from the small group of dog park opponents...
Keith Griffin April 26, 2011 at 02:50 PM
Actually, what people outside of the neighborhood may not be aware of is the 15-year restriction on the land actually came from the first meeting that Home Depot held to discuss the proposed changes. When questioned, Attorney Mallin said there was no language written into the original court settlement from 1994 mandating the open space. What West Hartford Place has done after almost 17 years is honor the spirit of the original settlement and put into writing the intent that the land among Flatbush Avenue be maintained as open space. It's not a backroom deal by any stretch of the imagination because it was presented in full detail at an open meeting. West Hartford Place has been open with its communications about the proposed changes since that first meeting and done an excellent job reaching out to the community and keeping the entire process transparent.
Mandy April 26, 2011 at 08:56 PM
This was a back room deal. There has never been a public mention of a 15 year restriction on the land until the community meeting on April 21st. This 15 year restriction was put in place due to discussions held between a few members of that neighborhood and the West Hartford Place Condominiums held privately in the last two weeks. This group was openly against the one hour extension of hours and the outdoor displays stating that the one hour extension could lead to home depot being open 24 hours and result in more crime. They also said that the outdoor displays had environmental issues and a visual impact on the neighborhood. Now, miraculously, they are openly supportive of Home Depot. What has changed? This is obvious. Home Depot agreed to put in place restrictions to permanently remove a dog park or any type of recreational activity in that area in exchange for this group's support of their two remaining application items. The space in question was supposed to remain green space. A dog park is green space. This group did exactly what they accused the Town and Coalition of doing, negotiating a deal with Home Depot. The Town and Coalition did no such thing. This group did.
Keith Griffin April 27, 2011 at 11:12 AM
It's a moot point now because of the Town Council vote last night but Home Depot addressed the environmental issues and visual impact issues raised by the neighborhood by relocating the displays and communicating what exactly would transpire. Legitimate concerns were raised in the past because Home Depot failed to communicate its intentions. As I said in my earlier post, the issue of that strip of land being maintained as open space was initially raised at the first Elmwood Community Center meeting and Mr. Mallin acted upon that and entered into discussions with some of the neighbors most impacted. Changes to special development districts and other zoning issues require communicating with neighbors within 250 feet. West Hartford Place did that. Are you suggesting it should have reached out to everybody in West Hartford for input and not just the people impacted? Publicly proclaiming the dog park coalition would pick up all the costs of maintenance but saying in the zoning application that the town and DPC would share in the costs of maintenance, a direct opposite of public statements, strikes me as a backroom deal.

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