Cheers and jeers heard for new sports bar proposal on Black Rock Turnpike
Updated 2:32 pm, Thursday, October 12, 2017
FAIRFIELD — A proposed sports bar on Black Rock Turnpike drew both fans and opponents to a Town Plan and Zoning Commission public hearing Tuesday night.
The hearing has been continued until Oct. 17.
Hail Mary’s is the brainchild of Mary Walsh, a Westport mom of three, and Jake Salpietro, an assistant volunteer baseball coach at Fairfield University. They are seeking approval to open the family-friendly restaurant, citing the Colony Grill as their model, in a former bank at 2500 Black Rock Turnpike.
They are seeking a zone change for a 6,348 square-foot section of the site, which totals 98,214 square feet. Of that, 22,916 square feet is currently zoned commercially. The balance of the property, attorney John Fallon said, is residentially-zone and will remain residential. He said the residential property is covered by a conservation easement that precludes its development.
The section for which they are asking for the zone change, Fallon said, is not part of the conservation easement. Having the additional commercially-zoned land, he said, would allow the patron area of the restaurant to be the size necessary to be successful, and allow for 42 parking spaces.
Walsh said two of her daughters played soccer at Fairfield University. “Sports have always been an important part of our lives,” Walsh said adding she wished there had been a place like Colony in town when her children played on travel teams.
But some residents of Steiner Street weren’t ready to cheer on the restaurant plans.
Lloyd Banquer said the property is just one lot away from his. “Next to the reputation for a poor school system, over-development is the second fastest way to reduce property values,” Banquer said. He said property values will drop as much as 30 percent if the sports bar is approved.
Another Steiner Street resident, Carl Steccato, saying allowing the zone change and restaurant will be the start down a slippery slope.
“It’s pretty common knowledge that with restaurants, most go under after a year or two or three,” Steccatto said. When that happens, he said, what’s left is a lot in an expanded commercial zone, and a developer looking to build a two-story building.
“There’s no shortage of restaurants in Fairfield,” he said. “Within a mile, there are 36 eating places, so there’s no strong desire or need for this type of business.”
But not all audience members gave the restaurant the Bronx cheer.
“I’ve lived here my whole life,” said Tom Saucier, a North Benson Road resident, who said he frequently patronizes the Country Cow, just across the street from the former bank. “It just looks like a restaurant to me,” Saucier said. “We need to take advantage of the opportunity. I think it’s a no-brainer.”
For Suzanne Fullin, the town has changed for the good since she moved here 20 years. “When we moved here, it was still kind of reinventing itself,” she said, adding while she understands where the neighbors are coming from in their objections, this side of town needs a Colony-type of a restaurant, “I think the concept is great.”