Tuesday, February 28, 2012
By James Lomuscio
The attorney for Chabad Lubavitch, a Westport Orthodox Jewish congregation that moved into the shuttered Three Bears Restaurant in early January and subsequently was issued a town cease and desist order, has submitted a special permit and site plan application to the Planning Zoning Department.
The matter is scheduled to go before the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) on April 12.
Larry Weisman submitted the application Feb. 22, a day before the deadline set, allowing the congregation to continue conducting religious education classes at the site. Planning and Zoning Director Laurence Bradley issued the abeyance at Weisman’s request following the cease and desist order due to interior renovations without the proper permits.
Located at 333 Wilton Road, the Three Bears Restaurant had been a Westport landmark since the early 1900s, closing in 2009 after filing for bankruptcy. Throughout most of the building’s more than 200-year history, it has served as a restaurant and was even a stop on a stagecoach route, according to a restaurant history.
Weisman stressed that the building’s historic significance will be respected.
“The application is for permission to renovate the interior of the building with no work on the outside of the building except cosmetic,” said Weisman. “And, there’s some landscaping on the property and slight revision to the parking lot to improve the sight line and also the circulation.”
“It’s a very simple, straight forward application,” he added.
Weisman said that Rabbi Yehuda Kantor and his wife Dina Kantor, who head the congregation, plan to hold services Friday nights and Saturday mornings and religious study classes on Sundays, with no more than 80 people using the building at its busiest time, a less intense use than when the building was used as a restaurant.
He added that the building’s exterior would remain white, and that there would be “a modest, free standing, black and white sign at the entrance set back 15 feet from the road.”
“Whatever the fears of the neighbors, they are without merit because there will be a lot less traffic, and we’re going to improve the building,” Weisman said. “The building had fallen into terrible disrepair and had all code violations and structural problems that we will repair in the course of renovating the interior.”
He added that in the near future, the Kantors and members of the congregation will hold informational meeting with the neighbors.
“They will make some effort to talk to the neighbors and show them what they plan to do,” he said.
Avi Kaner, chairman of the Board of Finance and a Chabad congregant, said early this month that when the application is filed, the Kantors will hold an open house at the Three Bears, “and they will invite the community and the neighbors to come in and see what their vision and intent is.”
Posted 02/28/12 at 01:56 AM Permalink