P&Z to take closer look at proposal for shared space for salon services
A proposal to open studio space on Post Road East that will be shared by several salon professionals will get continued scrutiny under a Planning and Zoning Commission decision last week.
The P&Z decided to continue its hearing on an application for a Sola Salon Studio to April 23 after concerns -- including increased traffic and noise, and possible illegal or illicit activities, such as prostitution -- were raised by neighbors of the building where the business would be located.
The property at 495 Post Road East, owned by Frisa I, LLC, would need the approval for a zone change of use from office to retail for the new business to operate at the site.
The Sola Salon Studio business, established in 2004, according to its website, "is an innovative salon model in which experienced hairdressers, estheticians, nail stylists, massage therapists and other like-minded salon professionals come together under one roof to take their careers to the next level."
The salons would be located in the lower level of the two-story building and would provide hair styling, eyebrow waxing and nail services, said Melvin Barr of Barr Associates, the real estate consultant for the applicants.
"Those are all considered retail under your regulations," he said. "We are not applying for professional health care or medical use."
Holly Bobrow, applicant, said all those leasing space would be professionals with the appropriate licenses and would also have to have liability insurance.
"The two women arrested in Saugatuck" recently on prostitution charges "were unlicensed," Bobrow said. "They never would have been allowed to have a studio" in the proposed salon, she said.
"They would have been turned away from the get-go," she added.
Bobrow said all studios would have double-wide glass doors and there will be camera surveillance of the studios. "Everything is visible, nothing will be hidden," she said.
"It won't be just anyone off the street," she told the commissioners. "We don't want any illegal activity taking place," she added, noting she will be onsite daily. "We want this business to be successful"
As for tenants having access to their studios 24/7, another concern raised by neighbors, she said that would allow stylists to accept early or late appointments, but said she doesn't expect people will be showing up at 2 a.m. for a haircut.
It's similar to any professional having access to his or her office after hours, said Rich Bobrow, Holly Bobrow's husband. He added that if there is ever any illicit activity "the tenant will be gone" with their lease terminated.
As for unpermitted uses, he said, "If we say no tattooing, there will be no tattooing." The same goes for tanning, he said.
But Jolanta Billotti of Hen Hawk Lane said that with 24/7 access -- and with no receptionist manning the front door of the building, located on a quiet street -- it would be "enticing to those who want to be involved in illegal activity."
She said, "The town should be aware of that."
Billotti also questioned what services would be offered. She said other Sola Salons -- according to the company website -- offer massage therapy and tattooing.
"Why would this location be any different?" she asked, "just because we are being told so." She said prospective tenants might go to the webiste and say, "I can do this."
"I understand your concerns, but we have established what type of services," said Chip Stephens, the P&Z chairman.
Another neighbor, John Mirkov, who has lived on adjacent Crescent Park Road for the past 33 years, said he doesn't have a problem with the salon, "but not at this location."
"I fear that doing so will increase traffic and noise and decrease safety on the street," he said. "Cars will be coming down the road all hours."
He said he would be impacted if the plan is approved.
"I have nothing against you people," he said to the Bobrows. "I don't suspect you are criminals or whatever, I just think (the salon) goes against what Westport residents feel and how they feel about their safety and life here in Westport."
There was some support for the proposal, including Donna Chapman, a neighbor of the applicants, who said the Bobrows "are great people" who are "advocates of everything positive."
Terry Eldh said the "hallmark of" Holly Bobrow's work as a lawyer "is her integrity and willingness to look at both sides of the issue."
In continuing the hearing, Stephens urged those on both sides of the issue to "get together and have a talk."
"Now's the time to talk," he said. "I highly encourage that."