Owner tries again for rooftop patio on Post Road building
Updated 1:02 pm, Monday, August 20, 2012
The owner of a downtown building is again trying to win approval for a rooftop outdoor dining patio.
John Karageorge, whose bid for the patio was rejected by the town's Zoning Board of Appeals in February, is now asking the Town Plan and Zoning Commission to approve the plan. Karageorge previously won approval from the TPZ and ZBA to build a second story for an office and storage at the 1460-1462 Post Road building, and more recently won approval from the TPZ to convert the use of a building behind it from retail to restaurant.
James Walsh, Karageorge's lawyer, says in a petition to the TPZ that potential restaurateurs have balked at leasing the building because it doesn't have space for storage, an office and outdoor dining, which has become a popular amenity among restaurants in Fairfield Center. The second story was intended only for storage space and an office when it was approved by the ZBA in March and by the TPZ in June.
If the TPZ denies the rooftop patio, Walsh indicated that Karageorge may lease the building at the corner of Sanford Street and the Post Road to a "lesser-quality restaurant" or coffee shop.
"The applicant has had numerous offers from a major coffee/donut shop, several national fast food retailers and other high turnover food establishments," Walsh says in the petition. "The applicant does not believe that it would be in the best interests of itself, the town of Fairfield and the Fairfield Center merchants to entertain such offers as they would provide a much-higher intensity in traffic in the already bustling Fairfield Center."
Assistant Town Planner James Wendt said Friday that the date of a public hearing on Karageorge's proposal for the rooftop patio has yet to be set.
Karageorge can't open the rooftop dining patio without permission from a town zoning board because he would be 12 parking spaces short of the required 27 parking spaces.
The ZBA rejected Karageorge's request for a waiver of required parking spaces, but the Town Plan and Zoning Commission has the authority to grant a reduction in the required number as well.
The building is now approved for a patron floor area of 600 square feet, which requires 15 parking spaces. The patio would be 480 square feet, which requires another 12 parking spaces. The 15 parking spaces were obtained through waivers granted to former tenants in the building -- Las Vetas Lounge, a coffee shop that moved to Unquowa Road, received a waiver of nine spaces in 2003 and Rhone Corp., which owns Centro, a popular restaurant across the street, received a waiver of six more spaces in April 2010. Karageorge's attempt to lease the 1460-1462 Post Road building to William Auer and Susan Dederick, owners of Centro, fell apart because the building didn't have storage space, according to Walsh.
Walsh contends that Fairfield Center has enough public parking spaces to accommodate the rooftop patio because a municipal parking lot next to Sherman Green, spaces along the Post Road and Sanford Street, as well as about 200 spaces now dedicated to rail commuters at the Fairfield Railroad Station that will be converted to spaces for downtown employees and shoppers as part of the town's agreement with the state Department of Transportation for the new Fairfield Metro train station on lower Black Rock Turnpike.
Walsh says a new restaurant in Karageorge's building, which he purchased for $851,000 in December 2002 from the estate of Julia F. McMahon, "will be an exciting, unique and upscale addition to our downtown business district and dining scene."
"It will provide Fairfield residents with another unique and attractive dining option," Walsh states in the petition. "The applicant's restaurant will be a beautiful, comfortable, community-oriented restaurant. It will provide a needed facelift to this beautiful building and will be a prestigious and quality addition to Fairfield's economic base in these difficult economic times."
Karageorge's plan to open a restaurant in the building is the subject of two lawsuits from E&F Associates, LLC, a property owner next door. E&F sued the Town Plan and Zoning Commission for approving construction of a second story on the building and the Zoning Board of Appeals for granting a setback waiver for the second story to be built. The ZBA had rejected the rooftop patio based on insufficient parking in Fairfield Center and fears the patio could turn into a bar, which could lead to even more traffic.
Frank D. Raviola of Fairfield Beach Road is identified as a principal in E&F Associates, LLC on the Secretary of the State's website.
E&F claims in its suits that Karageorge did not have a hardship that justified the ZBA granting the setback variance and that the second story would harm E&F's property values, impair the use and enjoyment of its building, and impede the passage of traffic and use of parking spaces on its property.