A new pre-application is pending at Greenwich’s Planning and Zoning Dept concerning the property at 147 East Putnam Ave in Cos Cob, on the corner of Strickland Rd, once home to a service station.
Most recently it was home to a popular Starbucks, though it closed during the pandemic in Oct 2020.
The new tenant of the building, Wildacre Rotisserie Greenwich, LLC, seeks to operate a Retail Food Sales establishment specializing in fresh rotisserie-based meals with seating limited to 12, which is the maximum allowed per the Retail Food Sales use.
The property is owned by Cos Cob Pond LLC, which according to the CT Secretary of State website is registered to Maria Drakotos of Bronx, NY and Penelope Drakotos Kassaris of Greenwich.
The application materials refer to “Ben’s Rotisserie.”
A letter from the owner says attorneys Chris Bristol and John Tesei of Gilbride, Tusa, Last & Spellane are authorized to pursue an application to change the use from Retail Food Sales to Restaurant.
A letter from Mr. Bristol to P&Z explains that while the applicant seeks approval for the Retail Food Sales use, his vision is to become a restaurant, expanding both his menu and seating capacity to 20 seats, and obtaining a liquor permit.
What will be consistent over time are concerns over parking. Many remember how cars would queue for a parking spot in front of Starbucks and spill out onto East Putnam Ave to a chorus of honking horns.
In fact, back in 2005 the P&Z commission denied a site plan and coastal site plan for applicant to renovate a non-conforming gas service station into a legally conforming retail store for Starbucks.
The applicant took the town to court.
Ultimately an agreement was issued by the court and Starbucks was allowed to open, but there were stipulations, including that:
• employees park off site at the shopping center at 152-160 East Putnam Ave
• the applicant contribute $25,000 to improve the Putnam Ave/Strickland intersection and modify Strickland Rd parking to short term spaces
• that the Town be granted a public easement through the property to connect the sidewalk to the east of Starbucks to the park by Strickland
There was also a stipulation that the applicant allow the town a 10 ft easement to construct a boardwalk along Mill Pond, given the town obtain all state and local permits, but that did not happen.
In a letter to P&Z, Mr. Bristol emphasized the convenient short term spots on Strickland. He also notes there is a permanent easement for 3 employee parking spaces at the shopping center across the street. The owner of 147 also owns the shopping center.
P&Z had anticipated Starbucks would be very popular, and it was. In addition to tight parking, often there was no place to sit down.
At some point extra seats were added, but after the town enforced the 12 seat limit, many seats removed.
If Ben’s Rotisserie is approved, and there is a follow up application to change to restaurant use, the question will likely hinge on parking.
Perhaps the turnover of a rotisserie based restaurant will be less than a popular Starbucks and its busy times might not be at rush hour.
Mr. Bristol’s letter states, “Peak business times for the applicant’s restaurant will be early afternoons for lunch and evenings for dinner. In this way, peak traffic for the restaurant would not occur at the same time as peak traffic times for other businesses and schools in the vicinity.”
Note to readers: This is a pre-application, and has yet to be scheduled for a meeting agenda, so P&Z commission and town planner are unable to answer questions at this time.
The time to comment or ask questions is if and when the application is scheduled for a public P&Z meeting. The idea of a pre-application is to dedicate about 20 minutes to the item during a P&Z meeting so the applicant gets enough feedback to determine whether to pursue an application.
Per CT Gen Stat § 7-159b (2013) pre-applications are non binding.They may not be appealed under any provision of the general statutes, and shall not be binding on the applicant or any authority, commission, department, agency or other official having jurisdiction to review the proposed project.