Cobb's Mill Inn could become an event space in Weston again

WESTON — Like many of her neighbors, Torild Ameden — who has lived in the vicinity of the former Cobb’s Mill Inn for 28 years — is thrilled to hear there may be movement in revitalizing this historic gathering place.

“I think it’s good to have a place where people can gather and be social, instead of having to go and leave town,” she said.

She has fond memories of the mainstay’s last iteration, run by the late Drew Friedman, which included an open mic performance venue.

“It was very nice for the community,” Ameden said. “People would bring their instruments and perform.”

Earlier this year, a local resident and restaurant owner, Kleber Siguenza, expressed interest in getting the place up and running again. Whether or not the intention will see its way through to reality is yet to be determined, but Siguenza has said he intends to make it happen.

Talk of getting the site deemed a state historic landmark faded into the sunset several years ago, something that could help abate issues related to flood zone concerns. But recent guidance from the Planning and Zoning Commission may help get the process back on track.

The commission had Siguenza in attendance last month for a pre-application review meeting, where he shared his vision and received some general feedback.

“My wife and I are in the early stages of seriously investing in and purchasing the Cobbs Mill Inn,” said Siguenza in a memo to the commission dated Jan. 26.

He and his wife, Sandra, who have called Weston home for about six years, own nine restaurants throughout the region, including the 55 Wine Bar in Fairfield.

While he said he did not intend to change the footprint of the building, Siguenza stated that his overall vision is to refresh the outdoor space “and revitalize its permitted usage.”

He also wants to redo the space on the first level for weddings and other events. “Décor and atmosphere will be significantly updated and modernized, while maintaining the integrity of the inn,” he said.

Current inn rooms would become available for overnight wedding guests, as had occurred in the past, the downstairs bar and restaurant area will be updated and include an upscale restaurant and bar.

The building to the left, meanwhile, will become a “casual spot for lunch and dinner,” he said.

“I am well aware there have been at least two other serious buyers before we came along and they have hit stumbling blocks,” Siguenza wrote, intending to break this cycle.

According to Samantha Kulish-Fargione, executive director of the Weston Historical Society, the building itself has a very long history as one of the town’s oldest standing buildings.

Originally a sawmill, it was known to be at the current location of 12 Old Mill Road as early as 1749. Through the next century the property was passed down through members of the Sturges family, who began also using it as a water-powered gristmill.

In the later 19th century it was also used as a cider mill.

In 1912 Frank I. Cobb bought the mills and began using the property as a weekend and summer retreat. Over the next 22 years — and several changes of ownership — the property became first a part-time inn and later an eating and drinking establishment in 1934.

“The Cobb’s Mill Inn holds an immense amount of Weston history,” said Kulish-Fargione. “We hope it can be preserved and enjoyed by current and future generations.”

Because the property’s use is grandfathered in in a residential zone, Edgar told Siguenza that his commission could have little say in approval of his project, provided he wasn’t changing the footprint of the building or significantly altering it from a structural standpoint.

“Like almost all of Weston, Cobb’s Mill is zoned residential, which means there’s nothing in the regulations that permits a commercial usage,” Edgar said, but the commercial use was in operation “long before there were any zoning regulations in Weston.”

If the use and physical nature of the building were “consistent with the prior usage and physical nature of the property, and then we have no discretion,” he said. “We would have to approve it.”

Edgar noted, however, that neighbors have, in the past, expressed concerns about the noise of outdoor activities at the inn.

“The town doesn’t have a noise ordinance but the neighbors have been sensitive in the past to things like lighting, to things like music,” he said.

Siguenza said he wants to work with the town though.

“I’m in love with the property and I think if the town allows us, we can work with the town and make it something beautiful,” he said.

Edgar said the commission has gotten questions in the past about what’s happening with the Cobb’s Mill.

“There’s definitely a desire in town to see that revitalized and put to work,” he said.

First Selectman Christopher Spaulding said the process is being run by planning and zoning, though Sigeunza has yet to file any formal applications.

“I would be thrilled to see the inn open again,” Spaulding said. “It is a fantastic amenity for town.”