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Article Published December 17, 2020

Van Wilgen’s Get Green Light from Clinton PZC

By Eric O’Connell/

The Planning & Zoning Commission (PZC) has unanimously approved the application to build a Van Wilgen’s garden center and green house at the site of the former Cashman’s Hardware Store at the corner of Route One and Grove Street.

With the approval granted at the commission’s Dec. 14 meeting, Zoning Enforcing Officer Kathy King said that there wouldn’t a public hearing needed for the application unless there are substantial changes needed to the application.

The application called for a garden center built in a remodeled portion of the existing 2,400-square-foot store and the construction of a new 46- by 60-foot (2,760 total square foot) greenhouse on the property. The application also called for the installation of a new septic system and restructuring the parking lot.

The official applicant listed on the application is Van Wilgen’s Garden Center, Inc. Van Wilgen’s is a popular garden center with a main location in North Branford and other locations in Guilford, Milford, and Old Saybrook. At the PZC meeting, Ryan Van Wilgen said the look of the Clinton store would be similar to that of the Guilford, Milford, and Old Saybrook locations.

“We’re excited to be in another shoreline town,” Ryan Van Wilgen told Harbor News/

The Clinton location will likely be more expansive than the old Saybrook market, and will hopefully have a heated greenhouse unlike some of the other locations. Van Wilgen said the store will likely be open from around March/April through the holidays then close for the winter. He anticipated selling some indoor plants and pottery in the indoor section.

A welcome Sight

The site of the approved development is the former location of Cashman’s Hardware store located at intersection of Grove Street and West Main Street (Route One). The building has sat vacant for more than five years and has been the source of rumors on and off about possible redevelopment.

“The building has been vacant for a while,” King said prior to the PZC meeting. “It was purchased, and the new owner was going to make it into a restaurant. Then, the building went up for sale, and now we have this new application for Van Wilgen’s.”

Jeff Cashman, the former owner of the site, is an alternate member of the PZC. He was not present at PZC meeting on Dec. 14.

Rumors of Van Wilgen’s interest in the property has existed for several months but wasn’t confirmed until the application filed with the land use office ahead of the meeting on Dec. 14. When news of the application was announced, it was greeted with overwhelmingly positive reactions from the public.

The public’s excitement was due to both news of who the new tenant is and tangible evidence of redevelopment along Route One. For years, townsfolk and politicians alike have specifically called for redevelopment along Route one.

At the PZC meeting, commissioner Aman Singh remarked, “It’s definitely a welcome look for that corner. It’s been a bad look for a long time.”

Other PZC members echoed Singh’s sentiments.

Van Wilgen’s will be the latest facet of efforts to improve Route One; other results the new CVS site, a beautification project being undertaken via a grant from the state, and an application that was approved last year by the PZC to build a mini golf course on a plot of vacant land near the Madison border.