ZBA Approves ‘First’ For Rochester

The plan must still pass the Planning Board level, but a modern gas station with a convenience store and coffee shop is in the works for the intersection of Route 58 and Route 28 after the Zoning Board of Appeals approved two special permits and a variance for the business – one that will be a first for Rochester.

After talks about a special permit for use subsided, the discussion focused on the special permit for the signage to exceed the maximum nine square feet, leading to a dialog about illumination of the signs as well.

Attorney for Colbea Enterprises, Richard Serkey, told the board that, without the signs that are reflected in the design, the business would suffer because prospective customers may view the business as “conspicuous from the inconspicuous signage.”

“We’re just seeking to give the customer … reasonable notice of what we are,” stated Serkey. And what it is, stated Colbea Chief Executive Officer Andrew Delli Carpini, is a concept of a filling station, convenience store, and coffee shop that is the next generation of gas stations, moving away from the traditional façade of the typical gas station.

The Rochester filling station, which would be Colbea’s 56th location throughout Rhode Island and Massachusetts, would be a Shell station, and the convenience store will be called Seasons, a concept Carpini said is a “rebranding” of the old gas station. He later added that some of the other locations have a Marylou’s Coffee inside, with a drive-thru window.

Abutter Louise Hebert was concerned about traffic, noting that there have been several accidents in front of the proposed location. She attributed the accidents to the location of the 7-Eleven across the street, along with the multitude of trucks on the busy highway.

“People coming out of the 7-Eleven are getting whacked left and right,” said Hebert. “That’s a dangerous corner.” She also asked, just how many 24-hour gas stations do we need over there?

ZBA Chairman Richard Cutler said, because there were so many things going on with the design, the board would vote on each area individually. He said the signs were the biggest issue.

“[It is] because we don’t have any internally lit signs at all in town,” Cutler said. He later added that Rochester does not have a business of this kind anywhere in town. “So this is kind of interesting,” said Cutler.

The vote for the special permit for use passed, with David Sullivan opposed.

“I don’t think that we need to permit one (gas station) next to each other and the next and the next,” stated Sullivan.”

“You should’ve stated that before we voted, though,” said Cutler.

When it came to approving the signs, board members asked questions, but overall had no significant issues with them.

Carpini assured the board that the signs are softer than the typical filling station signs, and the company was conscious of the lighting during the design phase. He described the Shell logo signs as having a “glowing halo effect,” and the Seasons sign on the building is “not a light that emits.”

Town Planner Mary Crain attended the meeting, and she urged the board to “cull this down quite a bit.”

“That’s a lot of signage,” said Crain.

The board disagreed, saying what was proposed is not any different than any other gas station around.

Carpini gave board members the option of visiting his new store in Randolph, but board members agreed it was not necessary.

There were a few special conditions placed on the approval, such as prohibiting animated signs and limiting the approval to Colbea, not transferable if ownership changes.

By Jean Perry

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