After learning that The Chelsea restaurant was using town-owned sidewalk space for its outdoor dining area, without securing the required lease, the first selectman wants to make sure everyone is ordering off the same menu of regulations.

First Selectman Michael Tetreau wants to meet with Town Plan and Zoning Commission members to devise a process that would allow his office, the TPZ and local business owners to work together.

The TPZ yanked The Chelsea's approval last week for its outdoor dining area on the Unquowa Place sidewalk in front of the restaurant when Tetreau informed the board that there was no lease for use of the town-owned sidewalk.

The restaurant had set up tables and chairs on the sidewalk last summer and again this spring, but lacked the required lease.

"How do we make sure we're all on the same page?" Tetreau asked.

He suggested that before seeking TPZ approval for use of town space, the applicant must first provide a letter of agreement signed by the first selectman and the applicant.

The TPZ can then act on the application for use of the outdoor space, appending whatever restrictions it desires, if it is approved.

The "official" outdoor dining season, as set by the TPZ, runs from April 1 through October.

At that point, Tetreau said, a full lease can then be negotiated between the business and the town, incorporating any TPZ conditions. When the lease is approved, he said a copy should be forwarded to TPZ.

"Clearly, no one should take possession of town property without a lease," he said.

Former selectman and current Board of Finance member James Walsh is the lawyer representing the owners of The Chelsea.

He said negotiations to lease the 98-square-foot section of sidewalk started prior to receiving TPZ approval for the dining area last July, and the owners now intend to pay rent for those past months once a lease has been approved.

The lease negotiations were originally being handled by Eileen Kennelly, but were passed over to town attorney Stanton Lesser after Kennelly became the town's risk manager.

But Tetreau said he was not aware of any lease negotiations for the sidewalk in front of The Chelsea. "None of that had been brought to my attention," he said, adding that before any "attorney time" is spent on this type of matter, it should come first to the first selectman's office.

Another purpose of meeting with the TPZ, the first selectman said, is to determine what the commission's vision is for the public sidewalks in the downtown area. "I don't want to say no, if this is something the TPZ wants to see," Tetreau said, adding that by the same token, he wouldn't want to say yes if these types of patios are not envisioned as something that conforms with its master plan.

There are two other downtown restaurants that have leases with the town for outside space. (Most of the other outdoor dining areas in Fairfield are directly on the Post Road, a state road.

Sidewalk space along that road and Black Rock Turnpike, another state road, do not need leases from the town, but permits for al fresco dining still must be obtained from the TPZ.)

Centro pays $1,650 monthly during the summer to use the southeast corner of Sherman Green for outdoor dining. The fences that delineate the dining area are taken down during the winter months.

At Old Post Tavern, $1,700 is charged for sidewalk space in front of the restaurant during the summer, while the rent in the winter is $250 a month. Old Post Tavern is charged during the winter months because the area is delineated by a stone wall and used by diners as a smoking lounge.

While up to date on its monthly payments, Old Post Tavern has a past due balance that in January was $12,825. Tetreau's Chief of Staff Robert Mayer said the restaurant continues making payments, chipping away at the prior outstanding balance, and as of May, the balance owed was $12,125.

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