It took awhile, but the corporate wheels at the headquarters of the McDonald’s national headquarters finally turned in Monroe’s direction.
Representatives of the applicant for a new McDonald’s restaurant at 579 Main Street unveiled a new architectural plan on Thursday aimed at overcoming the aesthetic objections of members of the Monroe Planning & Zoning Commission.
The new plan features a single mansard roofline broken up by ornamental dormers, all in New England browns and grays and white trim you might find on a cottage on Cape Cod.
"I think we avoided the gasoline station-style building design for the restaurant," said Joseph Lombardi, a representative of the fast-food company.
The P&Z approved the application late that night, by a 4-1 vote. Commissioner Karen Martin cast the sole dissenting vote because she did not like the parking lot configuration.
The changes seemed to come too late for Joyce Mumm, a member of the Architectural Review Board, which fought with the applicant of record, Real Time Investments LLC, for months trying to get them to come up with a more attractive design.
"I was upset in the paper because people thought we weren’t doing our job," Mumm explained.
That drew a measured apology from the applicant’s attorney, Raymond Rizio, who said the delay wasn’t intentional. He said the developer had to get approvals from three levels on the fast food giant’s corporate structure, and it was only finalized about a week ago.
McDonald’s name and familiar "golden arches" logo will still be present on the sides of the building and on a monument sign near the street.
The developer’s engineering and landscaping experts also outlined other changes they made for the P&Z since the public hearing was recessed on Feb. 17.
They include reducing the number of parking spaces from 58 to 44, the minimum required by the zoning regulations, to allow more room for a landscaping buffer strip, and cedar fencing and landscape plantings will serve as screens for adjoining properties.
Traffic engineer Mike Galante said he conducted a new traffic count to supplement one done last May. "Traffic flow on Route 25 is not affected negatively by this development," he said.
Another key issue for the P&Z is the proposed zone change from residential RC to a DB1 business zone on a landlocked 1.16-acre parcel behind the smaller parcel along the state highway.
Real Time Investments wants to join the properties to allow sufficient land for the restaurant under the regulations. Much of the landlocked parcel is undevelopable wetlands, and the combined property would still be nonconforming for side setbacks.
But Rizio said state law gives the P&Z the power to waive the setback under these circumstances.
P&Z Chairman Richard A. Zini said he agreed that the commission does have the power to waive the requirement.
"The ability to utilize that back wetland area is extremely nil," said Town Engineer Scott Schatzlein.
Some residents spoke against the proposal, including Dr. Edward Dessau of Verna Road, which is on the other side of Route 25. He said he was concerned it might lower his property value and cause traffic congestion.
Alice Magalnick, also of Verna Road, said she moved to Monroe for the town’s traditional values, which she felt McDonald’s contradicted.
Nancy Steinborn, another Architectural Review Board member, criticized some features of the new design and the fact the proposed restaurant would be open 24 hours a day.
But it also had supporters, including the leader of the Classic Nights Car Club, Trumbull resident Seth Carley, who praised the franchise owner of Monroe’s existing McDonald’s on Route 111, Dave Hawthorne, for his civic-mindedness.
Hawthorne said McDonald’s has not made a decision who would be the franchisee for Monroe’s new restaurant if it is approved. But he said it would employ 50 people and pay taxes to the town.