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.