Plans for a local Westlake Ace Hardware store inched closer to reality Thursday, as the Derby Board of Zoning Appeals approved an exception and variance for an outdoor garden center adjacent to a proposed location. The site sits directly south of the Planet Fitness that took over the old Dillons lot at 317 N. Rock Rd.
Given the lot’s history, (hosting a number of outdoor seasonal sales), the exception for an outdoor garden center in the B-3 general business district was not seen as much of an issue.
City Planner Scott Knebel noted the garden center plans met all regulations (with the exception of permitted size) with adequate infrastructure in place to allow for such retail business and no public comment was heard against it. Additionally, Knebel noted no more parking would be needed for the garden center itself and the structure was seen as a benefit in the area with little downside.
“It’s only going to be open and operated as part of the store, so we don’t feel like there’d be late night noise involved with it,” Knebel said. “Recommendation of staff is that this garden center’s going to allow the use of a vacant property for needed commercial uses.”
Additionally, Knebel noted the hardware store and attached garden center fit with the city’s goal of introducing more mixed use developments (featuring commercial and residential properties in close proximity) in the near future. Storefronts along the north end of the lot are also intended to be filled by commercial tenants in line with the mixed use plans.
On top of the exception for the garden center, a variance was needed as well due to the larger nature of the structure in comparison to the retail store. The garden center is planned to be 76 percent of the size of the proposed Ace location. Under current zoning code, such structures are allowed to be 13 percent of an adjacent building’s size.
Seeing no adverse effects tied to the garden center’s larger size, with it to replace a vacant lot, Knebel and city staff recommended the variance be granted as well. In fact, Knebel projected allowance for the Westlake Ace Hardware garden center could start a trend.
“We anticipate seeing greater need for outdoor business environments due to the pandemic. That’s probably something we’re going to continue to see,” Knebel said. “We anticipate this type of use is going to be more common in the future.”
Board of Zoning members voted unanimously to grant both the exception and the variance for the Westlake Ace Hardware garden center, subject to a number of conditions (garden center is not a standalone operation, no sign/banners on fence, temporary use permit required for live plant sales, etc.)