Darien denies controversial 7-Eleven plan at Duchess restaurant site

DARIEN — After months of deliberation, meetings, petitions and feedback, the Planning & Zoning Commission has unanimously denied an application to construct a 7-Eleven in the current Duchess restaurant site off Interstate 95.

The proposal included six pump islands, each with self-service fueling positions on both sides; an overhead canopy; an associated convenience retail store building of about 4,050 square feet; and within the convenience store building, an accessory quick-service restaurant of about 461 square feet.

According to the approved resolution, the commisison found that the “manner in which the applicant wishes to develop the site” is “overburdening to the site.”

“While the commission acknowledges that the unique shape and orientation of the property presents certain challenges, the applicant has put forth a proposal that attempts to maximize the uses in almost all respects at the expense of their only neighbor, the office property to the west,” the commission stated in their ruling.

The commission further found that the plan is “not in harmony with the appropriate and orderly development of the district in which it is located,” and that the project could hinder the use or development of adjacent land and could impact its value.

The plan could impact safety in the streets, the commission claimed, and would increase traffic congestion and interfere with the pattern of highway circulation that could “create or augment unsafe traffic conditions.”

The hotly debated plan to construct a 7-Eleven convenience store and gas station at the site of the Duchess restaurant on Post Road near Exit 13 I-95 has drawn much public criticism and feedback since the application was filed last summer.

An online petition currently has nearly 1,500 signatures objecting to the plans.

Late last year, Darien Police Chief Donald Anderson said his department’s administration “has had numerous conversations with residents who have concerns about this proposal,” which included the potential for traffic increase in the area, more traffic collisions and pedestrian safety.

Duchess restaurant would be closed and demolished as part of the proposal, but the property will have the same owners, with 7-Eleven leasing it.

The gas station was originally proposed as a 24-hour establishment, but was modified to 5 a.m. to midnight.

The town’s legal traffic authority has recommended against approving the application solely based on the traffic impact.

In March, town officials said they still lacked concrete answers to questions about the project, and the attorney claimed a competitor used “fear-mongering” tactics to prevent the convenience store from being approved.

Amy Souchuns, an attorney for 7-Eleven, said some of the comments during public meetings have been “borderline reprehensible.”

“There was talk of riff-raff coming in from Norwalk and Bridgeport and asking if bodegas might be next,” Souchons said during last week’s Planning & Zoning Commission meeting.

Souchons said she had “no comment” on Tuesday’s decision.