May 23, 2018

Letter: Chester Organon Market Planning Process

To the editor,

As a Chester resident, former P & Z Commissioner, and owner of property abutting the Organon Market on Route 154, I have been following Charles Stannard’s coverage of the story quite closely.

I have found his coverage to be an evenhanded and accurate depiction of the complicated issues that have surrounded the project for the past three years. I would, however, like to comment on a couple points made in his article entitled: Organon Market to Close for Remodeling – Permit Application to Chester P&Z.

First, Mr. Stannard writes that (market owner) “Peter Kehayias also acknowledged the market at 56 Middlesex Avenue, also known as Route 154, would probably never reopen if the commission does not approve some revisions to conditions that the panel imposed when it approved a special permit for the market in September 2011”.  It is important to understand that P&Z did not  “impose” any conditions.  Rather, the special permit was negotiated by Mr. Kehayias and his attorney(s) with input from the commission.  In fact, many of the conditions that Mr. Kehayias is now trying to alter were authored by Mr. Kehayias himself.  They were presented for the record during the public hearings and are memorialized in the meeting minutes and in his application.   These issues include the type and amount of allowable exterior signage and Mr. Kehayias’ agreement to forgo seating and the on-site consumption of food.

Mr. Stannard quotes Mr. Kehayias as saying “ The market should be allowed to run as a market…..I can’t be looking over my shoulder all the time”.   Mr. Kehayias seems eager to lay the Market’s problems at the feet of his neighbors, the Zoning Enforcement Officer, and P&Z.  The truth is that P&Z did not write the statutes which he feels have limited his operation.  Local Town commissions are mandated to follow State Statute on Zoning (and other) matters, and the Town would be terribly, as lawyers would say, “ exposed”  if they were to approve activity forbidden by the State.  Mr. Kehayias purchased a property in a residential zone which, by definition, restricts many types of commercial activity.  This is not opinion, this is law.

During the application and construction process, Mr. Kehayias enjoyed the counsel of architects, assorted licensed contractors, traffic engineers, and at least (by my count) four different attorneys.    It is difficult for many of us to fathom how he can now suggest that the Town is restricting his activities and not allowing him to succeed.  The application process for the market was extremely long and detailed, with considerable discussion and negotiation on everything from the menu and operating hours to the noise generated by the kitchen equipment.  The process was completely transparent, and we all should have known what to expect and what rules we’d have to play by.

Sincerely,

Richard Gold
Chester, CT

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