The plan by food emporium Garelick & Herbs to cross the border from Westport to the Southport stretch of the Post Road in Fairfield won approval -- and rave reviews -- from the Fairfield Town Plan and Zoning Commission on Tuesday night.
"I thought this was an excellent application," Matthew Wagner, a TPZ member, said of the gourmet food market's proposal to move from 1799 Post Road East to a 3611 Post Road property in Fairfield that used to be home to a nursery, but has been abandoned. The buildings on the half-acre site would be demolished, and a 5,325-square-foot retail building would be constructed on the site.
Wagner said the property, at the western entrance to Fairfield, has been dormant and is contaminated because of an underground oil tank. He said the property was mostly zoned for industrial use, but should be zoned for commercial use, which was the request from the applicant, a limited liability company that lists Jason and Paola Garelick of Congress Street as its principals on the Secretary of the State's website.
Wagner added that the proposed one-story retail building is "modest" and that a much larger development would be allowed under town zoning regulations. He said he also is impressed by the proposed stormwater treatment facilities, rain gardens and "generous landscaping" that are proposed by Garelick & Herbs.
"I think it will be a nice asset to the community," he added.
Commission member Gerald Alessi said the property is now "a complete blight" at the western gateway to Fairfield, while the Garelicks had proposed "a very beautiful building and layout."
Douglas Soutar, another commission member, agreed. "I think this is an excellent and outstanding use for what is now a rundown and unattractive property," he said. He said Garelick & Herbs is "an extremely popular gourmet food store" and that having an outlet of the business in Fairfield would be "a major achievement."
Alessi said he liked the idea of bringing Westport residents into Fairfield to shop.
Commission member Patricia Jacobson said the Garelick & Herbs plan for a new retail building at 3611 Post Road is "a great way to enter Fairfield" and that she looks forward to shopping there.
"This could be a model for the Post Road on the [Long Island] Sound side all the way into town," said commission member Sally Parker.
The commission voted unanimously to change the zoning classification of the land from industrial and residential to commercial, and then voted unanimously to permit construction of the retail building. The new building, which would consist of a 4,525-square-foot first floor and an 800-square-foot basement, requires 27 parking spaces, while 32 spaces are proposed by the applicant, according to Fairfield Town Planning Director Joseph Devonshuk Jr.
In addition to Westport, Garelick & Herbs also has stores in Greenwich and New Canaan.