Questions about Chabad expansion plan delay ZBA action
Updated 8:36 am, Friday, July 31, 2015
While Chabad of Westport still hopes to move forward with plans for expansion at the property that once was home to Three Bears restaurant, at least one neighbor has concerns about the proposal.
Because of questions raised about the Chabad application for a range of variances for the project at 79 Newtown Turnpike, the hearing is being left open by the Zoning Board of Appeals until Sept. 8.
“The proposal before you this evening is to expand their program,” said Mel Barr, who represented the applicant at Tuesday night’s ZBA meeting. The congregation wants to build a larger sanctuary and create more classrooms.
The building will expand from 8,452 square feet to 11,595. Parking coverage on the lot will also increase by about 6,000 square feet to comply with the added capacity, from the current 64 spaces.
“What is going to be required now under this expansion plan is 104 spaces,” said Zoning Director Larry Bradley. Consequently, total coverage at the property will expand by 8,573 square feet, or 10 percent of total coverage on the site.
Along with the additional parking, the plan calls for closing off the east entryway and expanding the other driveway into a three-lane entrance.
Anthony Fuori, whose driveway is across from that entrance on Newtown Turnpike, told the ZBA that he has concerns about the plans.
“My main concern is the driveway,” he said. “I don’t understand why the existing driveway has to be closed. I live directly opposite the new driveway and I can tell you right now it’s a headache … with the congregation the way it is right now.”
“I can’t imagine what it’s going to be a like,” he said. “Right now it like living at the end of an (airport runway) … I can’t imagine with three lanes of traffic right in front of my house.”
Fuori also expressed concern about the installation of new lights along the road. “Is it going to be like living next to a stadium?” he said.
Fuori also said he was told by the fire marshal that two entrances to the property, as they currently stand, “would be better” — something Barr said he had no knowledge of.
“I haven’t heard anything from the Fire Department about two would be better than one,” he said.
At the request of ZBA Chairman James Ezzes, the matter was left open for review. “There’s an awful lot of information,” he said, “and I think we all want to make a very educated decision.”
Bradley said the hearing would have to be left open in order to allow answers from town officials to be included in the case before a decision is made.
“I have an awful lot of questions,” Ezzes said.