CHESTER— In a split decision, the zoning board of appeals had denied most of the variances required for a proposed market in a vacant building at 56 Middlesex Avenue, also known as Route 154.
The board acted unanimously at a March 21 session on two motions after a public hearing where local resident Peter Kehayias and Deep River architect John Kennedy presented plans for the proposed market with a 10-seat cafe area. The plans require a small expansion of the building for a walk in cooler. The building, located on Route 154 near the intersection with Main Street, has been vacant for more than two years.
Kehayias, a former owner of the Patticonk Restaurant in the downtown village, has been trying for nearly a year to win zoning approval to convert the building into a market. The planning and zoning commission denied a special permit for the market last November, leading Kehayias to file a lawsuit in Middlesex Superior Court appealing the decision.
Eight residents, including former Selectman Peter Zanardi and Edward Ward, chairman of the water pollution control authority, spoke in support of the variances at the March 21 hearing. Kehayias said the market would be open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. He said the market would have four full-time employees, and four to six part-time workers. No one spoke against the plans at the ZBA hearing, where Kennedy noted the building has always had a commercial or retail use.
The board acted on a two-part motion by member Mark Borton, approving an extension or expansion of a non-conforming structure to re-fit the structure, while denying all of the other variances requested by Kehayias. Borton’s motion said the other variances, including a change of use and variances of minimum setback and non-conforming characteristics requirements of zoning regulations, were issues for the planning and zoning commission to decide.
The ZBA decision leaves Kehayias’s lawsuit pending. The planning and zoning commission discussed the case with commission attorney David Royston and First Selectman Tom Marsh in closed sessions on Feb. 17 and March 3. After conferring with Royston, the commission decided not to send a representative to oppose the variance appeals at the March 21 ZBA meeting.