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Revised plans for Mansion Road restaurant in Wallingford fail to win neighborhood approval

WALLINGFORD — The developers of a proposed restaurant at 10 Mansion Road revised their plans to the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission Thursday night, calling for the demolition of the house built in the 1800s but reducing the number of trees that would be taken down.

The application has drawn opposition from residents, many of whom attended the meeting. They left discouraged after their request for a public hearing went unanswered and the application was continued to Oct. 4 at 7 p.m. in the council chamber at Town Hall.

Attorney Dennis Ceneviva, project engineer Christopher Juliano and soil scientist George Logan laid the new plans out for a restaurant, outdoor dining area and “outdoor kitchens” devised from food trucks for the 2.5-acre property owned by developer Joseph Flamini.

"Hopefully, what we have before you, with all due respect, is a relatively simple application, similar to ones you've seen many, many times in the past," Ceneviva said of the revised plans.

The application has drawn opposition from neighbors living in the area, who formed Save Mansion Creek and requested intervener status, making them a party to the proceedings, giving them “a seat at the table,” according to state statute. At a site walk the commission held last month, many members of the group also attended and have put up signs in the area stating their opposition to the plans they say don't fit in their neighborhood and present environmental concerns.

After that site walk, the developer revised those plans.

"We have made some rather big changes to our site plan," Juliano said, "which are in direct response to the comments we've heard from the planner, the commission and the public.”

Flamini had hoped to restore the house, but after investigating its condition further, it was determined that it's not salvageable, Juliano said. It will be demolished and the foundation filled, he said.

"As the site contractor and the owner got into looking at the house further, they found that the structure itself is really not salvageable to be able to be used as a restaurant," Juliano said. A garage on the property also will be taken down, he said, as well as a shed. 

Plans to take down four trees near the building won't be needed, Juliano said. Four pads will be installed for permanent fixtures that appear to be food trucks but in reality aren’t.

"That's a little bit of a misnomer," Juliano said. "Basically what they are is the shell of a food truck. Really the best way to describe it is an outdoor kitchen."

The food trucks will have no engines or concerns for leaking brake fluid or transmission fluid, he said. "In essence, they're stripped-down shells of a food truck that are going to be converted to outdoor kitchens." 

The audience was filled with residents opposed to the proposal, including members of Save Mansion Creek. Their complaints include the lack of notification when the property was rezoned in June from residential to commercial, the runoff from the operation that they say will affect the wetlands and watercourses, the removal of trees, the possibility of erosion and the removal of a tree-lined privacy barrier dividing the property from the neighborhood. The group also requested a public hearing be held on the application.

Wetlands Chairman Jim Vitali expressed frustration several times throughout the meeting, saying that much of what was discussed should have been worked out with staff before the meeting. The application was filed in June, and it was on the July agenda, with the site walk held last month. 

Logan said they received comments from Environmental Planner Erin O'Hare three days ago and was pressed for time to respond to them. The response from the developer was received the day before the meeting, which meant the commission was unaware of the communications going on between the town and the developer.

"Sometimes it's good, sometimes it doesn't work. This time it didn't work," Logan said.

Vitali's frustrations extended to the audience, which several times yelled comments without coming up to the microphone to speak.



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