CHESTER— A request to allow limited seating at the Organon Market on Route 154 drew sharply differing opinions last week at a public hearing before the planning and zoning commission. The panel closed the public hearing Thursday evening after more than two hours of comment, and is expected to discuss the request at it’s April 11 meeting.
Resident Peter Kehayias is asking the commission to amend its August 2011 approval of a special permit for the market, located at 56 Middlesex Avenue (Route 154), to modify a condition of the permit that prohibited seating and consuming of food in the building or the parking lot. Kehayias, who is a member of the commission, recused himself and joined the audience at Thursday’s session. Deep River lawyer Jane Marsh, representing Kehayias, said he is not seeking to create a restaurant-type operation at the market, and would continue a prohibition on service of food to patrons at tables.
Marsh, who described the request as “not earth shattering,” said Kehayias is responding to requests from customers for an area where they could sit down while having a coffee or a sandwich. She said easing the restriction would have no impact on the surrounding neighborhood, but would create “a little bit more of a general store type feel” at the market.
Kehayias said he currently averages about 40 customers per day at the market that opened last summer, noting the parking area that abuts the Chester War Memorial is “never full.” He is asking the commission to allow seaing for up to 12 people in the market, either on benches or chairs. There would be no tables.
But several residents who live near the market objected to the proposed rule change, contending that allowing seating would be a further expansion of the parcel’s non-conforming commercial use in the surrounding residential zone. Richard Gold, an abutting property owner, contended Kehayias is still hoping to have a restaurant-type operation on the property. “Organon Market has been open for less than a year, and Mr. Kehayias is already asking for an expansion of the special exception which was difficult and controversial in its original form,” he said.
Several residents spoke in support of the request to ease the restriction. Gary Meade said the market is “a welcome addition to the neighborhood,” while Arthur Hennick said helping the market stay in business also helps the town’s commercial tax base. Robert Galbraith, who operates the Pattaconk Restaurant on Main Street, said the ban on all seating is an unfair inpediment to the business. “It’s not going to be a Big Y,” he said.
The building at 56 Middlesex Avenue was previously a gasoline station, then later used for marine and bicycle repair shops. It had been vacant for more than five years when the market opened last summer.