Saying he was inspired by “Caffeine & Carburetors,” the owner of a commercial property on Elm Street is seeking approval to create a “classic and exotic car showroom and dealership” there.
The new busines’s focus would be on “higher-end automotive brands,” according to Frank Vuoso, principal at Norwalk-based VMI Incorporated—owner of the .52-acre parcel.
“We would offer consignment for display in the showroom as well,” Vuoso said in a letter to Planning & Zoning that forms part of his application for site plan approval.
Vuoso continued: “The secondary purpose would therefore be automotive service and repair. With the building being as it is currently, this allows for the showroom to be present in the front with repair work to be done in a concealed manner in the back. To put it simply, there will be no “clunkers” or junk parts stored outside on the property. In addition to this, no tow trucks or flatbeds will be present. I plan to focus on the repairing of electric vehicles with a TESLA Master Certified Technician. I also have an interest in returning a national rental car brand to New Canaan, as my previous business did when it was a gas station. I plan to install electric car charging stations at the rear drive-thru stalls and possibly one in front.”
The property—formerly a Texaco gas station—is located in the Business A Zone, tax records show.
Under the New Canaan Zoning Regulations, site plan approval is required for any non-office use in the Business A Zone that’s also permitted by site plan approval in the Retail B Zone, subject to the same conditions (page 82). For “[n]ew car dealerships, including a motor vehicle repair garage and sale of used cars,” those conditions include that “such repair garage and/or sale of used cars is clearly accessory and incidental to the principal use” and “such accessory operations are located on the same parcel as the principal use or, with approval of the Zoning Board of Appeals, on a parcel within 300 feet of the principal parcel” (page 80).
Vuoso in his letter said that front parking will be exclusive to customers and rental cars, while employees will park out back. VMI will “not do much” with the interior of the building.
“We will keep the mural of the town in the showroom,” Vuoso said. “In addition, the carpet would be replaced with tile, the walls would be repainted, and a separating wall and fire door would be installed for access to the shop. The front doors will be replaced with sliding glass doors that present similarly to the ones currently in place, yet will allow for display cars to enter the showroom.”
The building also will keep its drive-thru area, though the bank teller dispensers will be removed.
“At this property, I previously owned New Canaan Texaco which was later converted and upgraded to New Canaan Exxon with New Canaan Avis,” he said. “We added a small convenience store in addition to the selling of fuel. To this day, I am disappointed that we had to close Exxon due to the aggressiveness of banks, but I think this property’s past supports the potential of this plan’s success. I look forward to returning to being an asset to the Town of New Canaan.”
The Planning & Zoning Commission is expected to take up the application at its Nov. 14 meeting.
In his letter, Vuoso notes that he has “witnessed firsthand the interest and success” of Caffeine & Carburetors downtown over the summer.
“It was wonderful to see the amount of people who came to see the unique cars on display,” he said. “This got me thinking; 272 Elm Street should be a business that offers a similar experience. I would like to convert 272 Elm Street back to an automotive business location.”