The Ridgefield Planning & Zoning Commission on Tuesday approved a special permit for outdoor lighting for the new LaPiazza Restaurant at 37 Ethan Allen Highway — but denied the owners' request for a roadside sandwich board sign.
With regard to the new lighting fixtures, which are already installed, Town Planner Betty Brosius said Zoning Enforcement Officer Richard S. Baldelli had confirmed they were in compliance with town regulations.
However P&Z Commission Member Michael Autuori said he found it difficult to believe that the lights mounted to the building were in compliance because they were set at a "45 degree angle" — meaning they shine out as opposed to straight down. He also took exception to the fact that the new pole-mounted lights on the property are not shielded.
Autuori also said he thought the lights were too bright during his visit to the building the previous week.
However applicant Helen Zervos who was in attendence explained that the frosted, 15 watt bulbs which the commission had requested to replace the current clear 30 watt bulbs during the previous meeting are backordered and still have not been installed — meaning that 30 watt bulbs were still in place when Autuori visited.
The commission previously made it condition that frosted, 15 watt bulbs be used in the fixtures so as to minimize glare. In addition the commission requested that a timer and dimmer be installed.
Zervos said the timer and dimmer have been installed and that the dimmer is currently set "half way."
Autuori decided to abstain after realizing he had not seen the light fixtures with the frosted, 15 watt bulbs installed. Board members John Katz and Nelson Gelfman abstained as well, as they had not had time to visit the building and see the lights at night.
Board Vice Chairman Patrick Walsh said he didn't find the lights offensive when he visited the site. He said although the light fixtures might not be in exact compliance with the regulations "they are in keeping with the intent of our regulations" to keep glare and lumens low.
Board member Peter Chipouras said he found the lighting pleasing and added that the applicant did what was requested in terms of making adjustments.
Board member Jim Fossi also said he didn't see any problem with the lighting and agreed with Chipouras that the applicant "has met the burden of the special permit."
The commission approved the lighting 4-0 with members Gelfman, Katz and Autuori abstaining.
On the new Italian restaurant's request for a roadside sandwich board, Fossi said although the commission has allowed them in the past, as a special request, he was concerned that it would set a precedent that would result in "sandwich boards starting to show up everywhere in town… including the downtown." However he added that he felt bad for denying new businesses the opportunity to use sandwich boards attract business during the period when they are getting themselves established.
Fossi said he wants the commission to revisit the permitting process for signs and said he would support a measure that would allow new businesses to use sandwich boards for the first 30 to 60 days, before having to request a special permit. "If we do this… we cannot be selective in what we permit," he said.
The commission voted 4-2-1 to deny the sandwich board.
The new Italian restaurant is operated by Zervos and her husband Demetri, who also run the popular Tavern on Main in Westport. The couple's sons, Anthony, John and Leonardo have reportedly joined them on the new venture.