Zoning Commission Denies ‘Smoke on the Water’ Application as Incomplete


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OLD SAYBROOK — The Zoning Commission voted unanimously to deny without prejudice the application of Smoke on the Water for a 300-seat outdoor restaurant at the former Dock & Dine, citing an incomplete application for the project at a virtual public hearing Monday night.

Commission Chair Robert Friedmann said the commission had the choice to continue the public hearing or to deny the application without prejudice. The latter would allow Jon Kodama, who owns the property, and his business partner, Chef Colt Taylor, to reapply. 

Kodama and Taylor were required to submit a complete application 14 days prior to the public hearing.

Christina Costa, zoning enforcement officer for the town, said the application was incomplete because parking requirements and the specifications of the pavilion have not been addressed to meet regulations, among other issues. 

Attorney Ed Cassella, who represented the applicant, asked the board to hear his client’s explanation about “why we think from a submission standpoint, the application is complete.” 

“There are questions regarding whether and to what extent different regulations apply and whether things are actually needed by this commission, which is part of what we were trying to get out of the meeting this evening — to determine the commission’s perspective on certain items have been requested throughout the process by the various referral levels that we have.”

Casella said his client had prepared a presentation to review the application materials and asked for the opportunity to discuss the issues of the project with the understanding that the application will be completed in the future. 

“If you would like me to kind of go through the completeness questions, or if we can just talk about those issues as they come up during the public hearing — but we really hope that the commission will hear us out and allow this public hearing to continue so that we can receive some of what we think is necessary and valuable feedback from the commission as to how to make this application.”

Friedmann said the board would only discuss the alternatives of proceeding with the public hearing or starting with a complete application in the future. 

Vice Chair Mark Caldarella said a number of boards and officials had deemed the application incomplete, including the engineer and building department of the town and the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. 

Caldarella said the [head of] police services sent a letter that afternoon about the “phased-in approach that the applicant wishes to take over the next few years to complete everything.” 

“His statement was clear in that safety cannot be phased,” Caldarella said. 

Caldarella suggested that the board deny the application without prejudice so that the applicant could submit a complete application, which would allow the commission to “adequately review and come to a conclusion about those materials.” 

Board members Gerry Lewis, Madge Fish and Ann Marie Thorsen agreed with Caldarella, as did alternate Justin Terribile.

Cassella asked for a continuance of the public hearing to June 7, which would have fallen within the required 35-day window of the commission and, he said, would give the applicant time to provide the materials 14 days prior to the hearing. 

The commission vote to deny was unanimous.