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Neighbors Don’t Eat Up Westport Panera Proposal

WESTPORT, Conn. – Plans to open a Panera Bread in Westport Plaza are being left in the oven for another week after its Greens Farms neighbors voiced concerns to the Planning and Zoning Commission about the bakery-café bringing increased traffic and noise to the area.

Located next to Home Goods in the plaza at 1850 Post Road E., the site sought for Panera is currently occupied by True Grace, a nail spa. A site plan application filed with the Planning and Zoning Department seeks to change the use of the space from retail to restaurant.

“Everyone likes Panera. They have a great product,” said Bob Scholl, a member of the Green’s Farms Association, an organization of neighbors. “But Panera replacing the nail salon means more traffic.”

Peter Romano of Land-Tech Consultants in Westport, who filed the application on behalf of the plaza owner, told the commission a traffic study concluded traffic flow in and out of the plaza would not be impacted.

Kurt Eichhorn, who lives behind the plaza at 402 Greens Farms Road, said while he and his neighbors are also supportive of Panera, traffic isn’t the only issue. He said there are also concerns about noise.

In addition to Home Goods and the nail spa, other tenants in the plaza include Walgreens, Village Bagels and Stride Rite, a children’s shoe store. Already, Eichhorn said, he and his neighbors are disturbed by delivery and garbage trucks. The noise created by these trucks will be increased with the addition of Panera, he said.

“There will be increased trash generation, which means there will be more trash pickup going on back there,” Eichhorn told the commission. “If you’ve ever heard a trash pickup, you know the sound of trash cans being banged around several times. It’s easy to be woken up by that.”

Car headlights shining into neighbors’ yards was also a concern Eichhorn raised. Although there is a fence behind the plaza separating it from residential properties, Eichhorn said the fence is see-through. The about 40 employees Panera would expect to hire for the store, Eichhorn said, would likely park in the back of the plaza.

Neighbor Brad Hardy of 397 Greens Farms Road told the commission he’s concerned that the addition of Panera would strain parking in the lot, which patrons of Shack Shake, located at 1849 Post Road E., sometimes use.

According to Romano, there is plenty of parking in the lot with about 382 spaces. “Even with Shake Shack customers parking there, the lot is never filled to capacity.”

Hoping the plaza owner and the neighbors will get together and discuss concerns, the commission voted to keep the hearing open. It will continue its review of the application next Thursday at 7 p.m.

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