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

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

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Madison the Site of a Rally for Local Control of Housing and Zoning

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MADISON — In front of Town Hall Saturday, about 45 people, including local and state legislators and members of CT169Strong, rallied against several proposed housing and zoning bills that they said will transfer local control to Hartford.  “The issues that really resonate in Madison are local control — we’re a very engaged community here, people come out and they have opinions. We are really good at problem solving in a way that works for Madison, so I can’t support anything that takes local control away from us,” said Madison Selectman Bruce Wilson, who was among the speakers at the rally. 

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Salim Furth Takes 5 Questions on Zoning and Housing

Salim Furth, who is the director of the Urbanity Project at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, recently spoke with CT Examiner about housing and zoning issues in Connecticut. He is a senior researcher specializing in macroeconomic trends and policies. With economist Emily Hamilton, he recently published an op-ed on housing affordability in Connecticut.  This is the second in a series of interviews on housing and zoning in Connecticut. The first is available here. 1. What should the state’s role be in providing affordability for Connecticut residents? There is a supply side and a demand side — the demand

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Cultured Studios Opens Shades of Melanin in New London

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NEW LONDON — Artist Kern Bruce began painting a mural at the pop-up show, “Shades of Melanin,” at Cultured Studios Friday night.  “Over time the mural is going to grow and I’m going to be incorporating people that are in the gallery tonight writing different messages about what they’re grateful for and people that they’ve lost,” he said. “So, it’s a living, breathing testimony of life, purpose and perseverance despite the odds.  Bruce, 38, who was born in Trinidad and Tobago, said he wanted to make a piece in honor of Black history month and Women’s history month, which were

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Gateway Approves Outdoor Restaurant Application, Outlines Further Issues for Old Saybrook Zoning

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The Connecticut River Gateway Commission approved Smoke on the Water, a proposed 300-seat outdoor restaurant in Old Saybrook, but agreed to send a letter to the Old Saybrook Zoning Commission outlining a number of concerns outside of Gateway’s jurisdiction. The Zoning Commission is scheduled to consider the project at a public hearing on May 3. Torrance Downes, who serves as senior planner at Gateway, explained in an email to CT Examiner that such issues as ambient smoke, days and hours of operation, noise levels, traffic and the other details are under the jurisdiction of the town’s Zoning Commission rather than

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Susan Lisbin at the Catherine Fosnot Art Gallery in New London

NEW LONDON — “I’m interested in relationships, how we relate to each other, whether it’s standoffish or tensioned,” said artist Susan Lisbin, whose solo exhibition,” The Human Side, opened Thursday at the Catherine Fosnot Art Gallery and Center.  Her pieces — oil paintings and clay sculpture — explore organic and anthropomorphic forms that reflect a sense of experimentation, tenderness and humor.  The show has been curated with “pairings” of her paintings and sculpture that relate visually — but her work as a painter particularly stands out.  Beginning with “Overload,” a painting depicting a figure on its side atop a pile

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Saybrook Point Outdoor Restaurant Wins 3 to 2 Vote by Town’s Planning Commission

OLD SAYBROOK — In a three to two vote, the Planning Commission has approved an application for a special exception for Smoke on the Water, a 300-seat outdoor restaurant to be created with customized food trailers at the former Dock and Dine property on College Ave.  “[The property] needs to generate cash flow if there is any chance of moving to a whole building at some point down the road,” said chef Colt Taylor, who is pursuing the project with property owner, Jon Kodama. Taylor said he was grateful to the zoning members who “stepped up and didn’t just follow

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Steven Mullins Takes 5 Questions on Zoning and Housing

CT Examiner asked five questions on the topic of zoning and affordable housing to Steven R. Mullins, a long-time member of the Planning and Zoning Commission of West Haven. Mullins has been a prominent opponent of S.B. 1024 and several other zoning bills that are currently being considered in the legislature.  What should the state’s role be in providing affordability for Connecticut residents? How can we better integrate Connecticut? Towns can do this by just being welcoming to people. Like I said in the beginning — I’m Black, I’ve got children, we can move anywhere in Connecticut that we can

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Old Lyme Proposes Smaller Budget, Small Hike to Mill Rate

OLD LYME — At Monday’s public hearing for the 2021-22 budget, the first selectman’s proposed budget included a decrease in funding requests that was offset by a decrease in revenues and other factors, resulting in a proposed mill rate increase from 23.20 to 23.30 per $1,000 of assessed property value for the coming fiscal year.  David Kelsey, chair of the Board of Finance, presented the preliminary budget, which will go to a public vote on May 17.  In his presentation, Kelsey gave the following examples of how the increased mill rate could affect homeowners’ property taxes: House Appraised Value Assessed

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Centerbrook Architects’ Jeff Riley Walks Through a Plan for East Haddam’s Redevelopment

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Jeff Riley, a principal of Centerbrook Architects, talked with CT Examiner about Swing Bridge Landing, a proposed mixed-use development adjacent to the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam. The $51 million, 94,000-square-foot project would include a village green surrounded by retail shops, restaurants, apartments, a health club, offices, on-site parking, and possibly a boutique hotel. Below are a selection of Riley’s comments on several images of the proposed project.  “The village green is meant to be just exactly that — a green that is available to the people in town. All sorts of things can happen there from seasonal celebrations

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Painter Richard McDonough in New London

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NEW LONDON — Grids, patterns and the color pink are a few of the themes that artist Richard McDonough explores in his solo show, “Two Turloughs,” at the Catherine Fosnot Gallery.  McDonough, who is 25 and lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., is a painter who likes to construct objects, whether as sculpture or as surfaces to paint on — and to him, they are on a continuum.   Near the window of the first gallery is his tall, skinny, house-like sculpture, “Choir House and Choir Singers,” with a prominent wooden grid visible on the back surface. Around a corner, “Boys Toys,” a

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Old Lyme Officials Debate New Ideas for Saving Trees Along Ferry Road

OLD LYME — With maps and a tape measure in hand, Tree Commission members walked a section of the south side of Ferry Road Tuesday afternoon to inspect the right-of-way where a new sidewalk could be installed and to count the number of trees that would need to be removed.  One tree that was in poor condition because it had been trimmed unevenly to avoid the power lines would be taken down, said Joanne Camillo, chair of the commission.  “It’s really half a tree,” she said. In addition, two weeping cherry trees would likely be removed to construct a sidewalk

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Without Detailed Designs,’Smoke on the Water,’ Hits Turbulence in Old Saybrook

OLD SAYBROOK — Smoke on the Water, a 300-seat outdoor restaurant slated for the former Dock and Dine property on College Ave., hit an obstacle Monday night when the Architectural Review Board agreed that the project application was incomplete and asked for a landscape plan that complied with regulations, elevations of the food trailers, and a site plan showing the locations of tables, tents and other equipment.  The board’s questions began during a zoom presentation about the restaurant — which will use towable trailers for food prep, storage, and bar service — by Ed Cassella, an attorney of Old Saybrook

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Sculptor Robert Rohm in Providence

PROVIDENCE — Rebar was a delicate drawing tool in the hands of sculptor Robert Rohm, whose show “Down to Earth: Robert Rohm Sculpture, 1963-2013” is running through April 25 at the WaterFire Arts Center in Providence.  At the beginning of the show are Rohm’s large pieces based on the figure — oversized hands, a shoulder, a series of arms, a torso, a leg — all forms in mid-gesture, bending, moving, cradling, reaching.  Rohm gave each piece “skin” by covering the flexed and shaped rebar with steel mesh and then layering encaustic, a pigmented hot wax, over areas of the mesh.

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Gas Station Expansion Meets Opposition in East Hampton Hearing

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EAST HAMPTON — The owner of the Citgo gas station and Food Bag convenience store at 1 Colchester Ave. has applied for change of zoning for two adjacent residential properties, creating a larger footprint for the business to expand. If approved, 157 Main Street and 5 Colchester Ave would be re-zoned from residential to commercial property. The owner, Atlantis Marketing Group of Mount Vernon, N.Y., has requested that after the change in zoning, the three parcels be merged into one.  A petition supporting “remodel and improvements” of the store — circulated by the Atlantis Marketing Group, known as AMG — 

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Scaled-back Zoning Legislation Advances in Connecticut General Assembly

HARTFORD — The state legislature’s Planning and Development Committee approved a scaled-down version of zoning legislation proposed by Desegregate CT in an 8-hour zoom session Wednesday. Missing from S.B. 1024, was section 6, which included new rules regarding transit oriented development, language that allowed “as of right” mixed-use and multifamily developments within one-half mile of a town’s primary transit station. Section six also would have allowed multifamily housing or at least two types of “middle housing” within one-quarter mile of at least one main street corridor in towns with a population of at least 7,500.  Also absent from the approved

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Legislature to Hold Wednesday Hearing on Raft of Housing and Zoning Legislation

HARTFORD — A raft of zoning and housing bills introduced in the state legislature since January turn on key points concerning the balance of home rule and state control, as well as issues of housing affordability, racial integration and equity. A number of these bills have received hearings variously in Transportation, Planning and Development, Housing and Budget and Finance committees, and while legislators interviewed by CT Examiner expect that some provisions will eventually pass into law, very few of these bills will receive a vote and fewer still in their current form. “These are works in progress and there’s a

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Middle Haddam Couple Tailors One-of-a-Kind Safaris in Africa

MIDDLE HADDAM — “It’s almost like you’re on a different planet. The fact that the animals are in charge, you’re a guest there and you realize that pretty quickly. This is their habitat. This is their world, and you’re visiting,” said Pierre Faber, co-owner of Classic Africa, a safari company that custom designs trips to southern and eastern Africa.  “That’s a very different feeling from what you’re accustomed to if you’ve grown up in the developed world so it’s a very powerful experience,” he said. “People fall in love with it. A lot of our clients are very well traveled

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Developer Meets Unanimous Opposition at Contentious Middle Haddam Historic District Meeting

EAST HAMPTON — Despite warnings from the attorney for the developer, the Middle Haddam Historic District Commission will oppose a proposed zone change for a property located in the historic district at the April Planning and Zoning meeting. Developer William Wayne Rand, under the name Long Hill Estates, LLC, has proposed a zone change from R-2 to commercial for a new 1.5-acre lot that is currently part of 53 Long Hill Road, a 17.6-acre parcel that he purchased on Nov. 20, 2020. The proposed new lot is next to Sports on 66 at 265 West High St and is expected

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With Vernal Pool in Question, Hearing for Halls Rd Gas Station to Continue

OLD LYME — Lack of current data on a vernal pool located near the proposed Big Y Express gas station and convenience store delayed the decision of the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission during a public hearing on the project Tuesday night.   A six-bay gas station and 2,100-square-foot convenience store are proposed for connecting properties at 99 Halls Road and 25 Neck Road that total 2.18 acres when combined. Essex Savings Bank, located on an adjacent property at 101 Halls Road, owns both parcels. The commission will decide whether or not the project will have significant impact on the vernal

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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 —

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The Cooley Gallery at 35

OLD LYME — “At any given time, I think we’re probably thought of as being a gallery of Old Lyme impressionists, but our tastes are far broader than that,” said Jeff Cooley, who co-owns the Cooley Gallery with his wife, Betsey Cooley. The couple began by renting the front room of 25 Lyme Street in 1986 and slowly leased more space at the back of the building and upstairs. When the property went on the market in 1989, the Cooleys bought it.  “When we moved here, it became clear pretty quickly that by virtue of being in Old Lyme, people

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Housing Development in Madison Sparks Opposition, Legal Fight

MADISON — A proposed seven-unit development at 856 Boston Post Road may comply with the town’s new regulations for cluster housing, but a growing number of town residents oppose the project, including some who have hired an attorney to intervene in the process. The project would renovate the interior of The Ledges into two housing units and add a two-car garage for each unit. The 5-bedroom, 5,586-square-foot house was originally built in 1903 on 1.81 acres. Behind the house, two duplexes would be constructed, each with a two-car garage per unit, in addition to a single unit “gatehouse” home that

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A Rundown of Testimony from Local Residents on New Housing and Zoning Rules Proposed by Desegregate CT

Legislators, local officials and members of the public testified in total for more than 24 hours and submitted an additional 365 letters — splitting roughly 60 percent in favor to 40 percent opposed to Senate Bill 1024. The bill represents the platform of Desegregate Connecticut, an affiliate of the Regional Plan Association and self-described coalition of more than 60 organizations focused on an “overall goal of tackling segregation in land use laws.”  Below are excerpts from letters for and against the bill from residents of southeastern Connecticut:  … I strongly believe that the zoning reforms in SB 1024 will positively impact communities across

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Housing Debate in Legislature Stretches into Day Two

As of 6 p.m. Monday, the debate regarding the controversial zoning bill 1024 in the legislature’s Planning and Development Committee had lasted eight hours, with a few brief breaks to discuss other legislation. At 6 a.m. on Tuesday, the debate continued… “It allows towns to focus development around infrastructure where it already exists in our main streets and train stations in those areas representing less than one percent of the state. Local town boards would write the rules in advance and the staff would administer them — that’s what we mean by ‘as of right,’ not a free for all,”

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‘A lot more moving parts,’ Old Saybrook Official Says of Restaurant Approval

OLD SAYBROOK — A zoning text amendment change is one of three approvals needed for Smoke on the Water, an outdoor restaurant proposed for the former Dock and Dine site at 145 College St.  Christina Costa, zoning enforcement officer for the town, said the text amendment on the Zoning Commission agenda tonight must receive approval and an effective date must be set before the commission can consider the applicant’s request for a special exception for an outdoor restaurant.  “You can’t approve the special exception without the regulation being approved first,” said Costa. The applicant, Jon Kodama, owner of the Dock

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A Battle Pitting Local versus State Control at the Heart of Legislation to Change Housing in Connecticut

Local regulation of accessory apartments, mixed-use developments and multifamily housing could change dramatically if new legislation supported by the coalition Desegregate Connecticut is signed into law. Bill 1024 is among a number of housing bills on the public hearing agenda of the Planning and Development Committee of the General Assembly on Monday at 10 a.m.  The bill represents the platform of Desegregate Connecticut, an affiliate of the Regional Plan Association and self-described coalition of more than 60 organizations focused on an “overall goal of tackling segregation in land use laws.”  Among some of its components, Bill 1024 would allow accessory

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Essex Savings Bank Meets Opposition to Plans for Halls Road Service Plaza

OLD LYME — At its Thursday meeting, the Halls Road Improvements Committee addressed two officers of Essex Savings Bank concerning the committee’s opposition to a Big Y Express gas station and convenience store proposed for a property on Halls Road that is owned by the bank.  “One of our biggest concerns is putting in a gas station on this property goes in exactly the opposite direction of what we were trying to get to,” said committee Chair Edie Twining, who said it was unlikely that the property will ever be redeveloped for another use once the infrastructure for a gas

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Public Weighs in on Proposed 300-seat Outdoor Restaurant in Old Saybrook

OLD SAYBROOK — The proposal for Smoke on the Water, a 300-seat outdoor restaurant slated for the site of the former Dock & Dine at 145 College St, has attracted significant public attention, both positive and negative, as the project works its way through the town’s approval process for zoning and planning. The plan calls for two large charcoal smokers centered around a fire pit and eight high-tech trailers — two equipped for food prep, one set up for alcohol service, one to house portable restrooms, and others to store supplies. The trailers would be on-site for 180 days or

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A Quick Peek at Marker 37 in Chester

CHESTER — “Cooking the food and making it absolutely taste outstanding, I don’t stop there. It’s so gratifying to see a waitress drop the food off at a table and see the customer immediately smile even before they’ve eaten the food. That is what I want the experience to be, said David Saunders, chef of Marker 37, a restaurant under construction on Railroad Ave. at Chester Marina.  Saunders, who has been the chef of Saybrook Soup and Sandwich Co. since 2010, said his new venture, named for its location on the Connecticut RIver, will feature a “contemporary aquatic” menu with

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