July 2, 2022

Proposed Route 154 Organic Market Back Before Chester Planning and Zoning Commission

CHESTER— A proposed organic market on Route 154 that over the past year has been the subject of a lawsuit and variance requests to the zoning board of appeals goes back to the planning and zoning commission next week.

The commission will hold a public hearing Thursday on a special permit application by 56 Middlesex Avenue LLC of Cromwell and local resident Peter Kehayias for a first floor retail market and second floor office in the vacant building at 56 Middlesex Avenue, also known as Route 154. The hearing convenes at 7:30 p.m. in the Chester Meeting House on Liberty Street.

Kehayias, a former owner of the Pattaconk Restaurant who still owns the Main Street building, has been seeking approval for the proposed market for nearly a year. The 56 Middlesex Avenue building, a former service station that most recently was a bicycle repair shop, has been vacant for several years.

The commission last November denied a special permit application for the property that included the market and a 10-seat cafe area for customers. Kehayias appealed the denial in a lawsuit filed in Middlesex Superior Court, and earlier this year also asked the zoning board of appeals to approve variances that would serve to reverse the planning and zoning commission decision. The ZBA in March denied the variance requests that would have authorized the market use, but approved a variance that allows an expansion of the structure to house a walk-in cooler.

The new application set for public hearing next week makes no reference to a cafe seating area, but calls for a retail market that would sell “a range of prepared foods, dry goods, groceries and locally grown fruits and vegetables,” along with some meats, poultry, fish and seafood. The Organic Market would be open seven days a week, with hours from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and shorter hours on weekends.

Another thing that has changed since the original permit denial last November is that Kehayias is now serving on the commission he has been appearing before over the past year. Kehayias was appointed by the board of selectmen in late March to fill a vacant alternate seat on the panel.

Kehayias has recused himself from participating in commission discussions involving his property or proposed business activities, most recently earlier this month when the panel approved construction of a three-foot deep utility trench crossing the Chester War Memorial site to allow for an upgrade of electrical service to the 56 Middlesex Avenue property. The Chester War Memorial parcel, which has a granite monument listing the names of town veterans, abuts the 56 Middlesex Avenue site. Local veterans did not object to the underground utility connection.

In a second special permit application set for public hearing on July 7, the United Church of Chester and Dawn Miles of Old Saybrook are seeking approval for a day care center/school on church-owned property at 29 West Avenue, also known as Route 148. The center/school would offer a Montessori education program for children ages 3-9, along with before and after school child care services.