Saybrook Point Restaurant Clears First Hurdle, Meets Favorable Response

OLD SAYBROOK — Smoke on the Water, a 300-seat outdoor restaurant slated for the former waterfront site of Dock & Dine, received the first of three necessary regulatory approvals at Monday night’s meeting of the town’s Zoning Commission.

The Zoning Commission unanimously approved a zoning text amendment that will allow an outdoor restaurant for a maximum of 180 calendar days in the SP-2 zone, known as Saybrook Point. 

The amendment created a regulation that allows the applicant, Jon Kadama, owner of the Dock & Dine parcel at 145 College St., and chef Colt Taylor, to apply for a special exception — one of the three needed approvals — for their vision of an outdoor restaurant made up of temporary non-residential trailers separately customized for food preparation, alcohol service, refrigeration, storage and washroom facilities. 

The commission revised several items of the proposed amendment, including the removal of takeout service because it was not included in the definition of an outdoor restaurant. Commission Chair Robert Friedmann said the applicant could apply in the future for a text change to include takeout service. 

The text amendment received support from the Planning Commission, Economic Development Commission, and Harbor Management Commission, and was reviewed by the Police Department, said Friedmann. 

Friedmann said the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection “did not offer any negative comments and so we interpret that as there’s no problem with the DEEP.”

Christina Costa, the town’s zoning enforcement officer said the project received support from the Regional Planning Agency and the Connecticut River Gateway Commission, among others. In addition, she said, the proposal was referred to the town engineer and building official. 

Friedmann said the commissioners reviewed the text line by line and made changes to the text within the commission’s legislative authority “that will make it clearer and or more restrictive, but not less restrictive than originally proposed.” 

The 2.23-acre site is located in a floodplain, which would have required the elevation of a permanent building to meet Federal Emergency Management Agency standards. Instead, the trailers and other equipment on site would be hauled to higher ground in the event of a declared storm. 

“This is a means to establish a use on the property without a building [that would have been] flood compliant at 12-plus feet finished floor elevation,” Friedmann said. “It’s supported by a number of people.”

He said that many of the residents in opposition to the project live in the North Cove district, which does not border the SP-2 zone. The SP-1 zone separates the residential district from the SP-2 district. 

“All those details regarding an application, including a site plan will be handled in the future under a special exception application for an outdoor restaurant. We’ve considered all of these aspects of the zone and the area and the history, as well as all of the referrals and input from the public,” he said. 

The project will also need a flood permit — the third necessary approval — because the property is in a VE zone

The public hearing for the amendment took place on March 1 and March 15 and was closed on March 15. 

The text amendment will go into effect on April 12.

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