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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Parking lot work ready to start at Wooding-Caplan

As published in the Record Journal Thursday August 23, 2012

By Laurie Rich Salerno
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2235

WALLINGFORD - The town is about to begin construction on a temporary parking lot at the Wooding-Caplan property and related improvements to the area, town officials said Wednesday.

Town Engineer John Thompson said work will begin in a few weeks on the first stage of the three-part project, which will eventually result in a 100-space parking lot on the town-owned Wooding-Caplan property. Officials would like to have the project done by the time Celebrate Wallingford takes place, on Oct. 6 and 7, but that depends on how construction proceeds, Thompson said.

The lot will provide what some say is much-needed parking.

“I’m very happy,” said Town Councilor John Sullivan, a Democrat. “Uptown needs more parking. Hopefully this will fit that need. As long as we can direct people to that lot, it is going to be a key to the success there.”

The land is near the center of town, behind buildings on North Main, Center, Academy, and North Elm streets. The project is expected to cost $200,000.

The Town Council approved the plans last spring after asking town staff to report on the feasibility of putting temporary parking on the Wooding-Caplan site. The request came after voters rejected a plan in November 2011 for the town to repair a privately owned lot behind Simpson Court.

The first stage will involve milling and resurfacing the parking lot behind the police station, which will be next to the new lot. The work will fix potholes and other breaks in the pavement, restripe the lot, and install new drainage, Thompson said.

The town selected R.P. Dalton Asphalt Paving, of Waterbury, to do the work on police lot, and Thompson said he expects work to begin in the next few weeks.

The rest of the work will be done by the town Public Works Department.

The second phase is widening and paving of Wallace Avenue, an alley that will serve as the access road to the new lot. Department of Transportation permits will likely be obtained in the next two weeks for the project, Thompson said.

The street is now about 12 feet wide, within a 50-foot public right of way. The final road will have two 13-foot lanes, one headed in and one out, with an added 8-foot parallel parking lane on the east side of the street.

“We’re constructing this Wallace Avenue Connection as though it’s going to be a town street,” Thompson said. That means digging up the road and moving some of the utilities — including water and sewer pipes under the street, which Thompson said may slow construction.

“Once you start digging, you never know what you’re going to encounter,” Thompson said.

The final road will have lighting and curbs. It is being constructed not only for the parking lot, but for any structures that may come after the parking lot.

The final stage will be creating the temporary parking lot itself. The Public Works Department will take millings gathered from a resurfacing project on North Plains Industrial Road and roll them out to create the lot surface. The lot is expected to last seven to 10 years. Construction on North Plains Industrial Road is set to begin in the next two weeks, Thompson said.

The surface will be more stable than gravel, but won’t be as permanent as pavement, said Public Works Director Henry McCully.

“It binds very solidly together,” McCully said.

The final lot will have lights and a sidewalk connecting it to Center Street. Initially there will be no time limit on parking there, Thompson said,but if cars are parked there for days, or other issues arise, the town may consider putting some regulations on the spaces.

Thompson said some residents of North Elm Street have raised concerns about flooding from the work. He said that after meeting with residents and investigating the property, it was discovered that there are drainage issues on the Wooding-Caplan site. The town will put in a drainage system that will collect groundwater and route it to Center Street so it doesn’t affect North Elm Street residents.

“We heard the comments from the residents — it was legitimate — and we’re using conventional engineering strategies to try and solve it,” Thompson said.

The Wooding-Caplan property was bought by the town in 1991 for $1.5 million. There have been many plans for the site, including a 2006 sale to a developer for condominium and commercial space that was rejected in a referendum, and as the location of a new $20 million police station that was explored in 2008 but not pursued.

As for the current plans, “the pieces are falling into place,” Thompson said.

Wallingford council looks at new rules for outdoor dining

As published in the Record Journal Wednesday August 22, 2012

By Laurie Rich Salerno
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2235

WALLINGFORD — Town councilors will consider changes to an outdoor dining ordinance that could give them the power to approve or deny sidewalk seating for certain businesses.

Only restaurants interested in serving alcohol in an outdoor sidewalk dining space need to apply to the Town Council for permission, according to an ordinance passed in 2004. If the restaurant wants the outdoor dining space that takes up part of a public sidewalk but won’t serve alcohol, it doesn’t need to go before the council.

But a resident’s concern has caused the council to re-examine the ordinance, which it will do at a special Ordinance Committee meeting Thursday night.

According to Town Councilor Craig Fishbein, who co-chairs the Ordinance Committee with fellow Republican Vincent Cervoni, someone told him that an establishment was not complying with the regulations set out in the ordinance for its sidewalk patio. A closer look at the ordinance, Fishbein said, led him to see that it only covered restaurants serving alcohol, and the business in question was not. Neither councilor would reveal the name of the business that had been the source of complaint. “The way the ordinance is drafted, it can be construed to only apply to those establishments that sell alcohol — which is an issue,” Fishbein said. “I think the intent to a certain extent is public safety.” Fishbein said having outdoor spaces that don’t follow town guidelines for size can be a hazard for pedestrians.

“I’m not looking to restrain trade, but there’s ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements for sidewalks,” Fishbein said.

Several businesses downtown have outdoor seating, including Gaetano’s Tavern on Main, Archie Moore’s, Half Moon Coffee and Grill Cafe and Mr. D’s cafe and bakery, all on North Main Street.

Neither Half Moon nor Mr. D’s serves alcohol, though Half Moon does allow guests to bring their own alcohol. Both could be affected by an ordinance change that regulates outdoor seating for all businesses. Owners of those establishments could be reached by phone Tuesday.

Gaetano’s co-owner Debbie Pacileo said her business brought the issue up to the council years ago, when the restaurant wanted to serve alcohol in its sidewalk space. The request was approved. Today, she said, most summer nights the patio is completely booked.

“People love it; it’s so nice for the town, too,” Pacieleo said. “Uptown has really blossomed since this came into effect.”

Among several requirements, the ordinance says that the sidewalk spaces must have a sturdy rail or other divider separating the section from the rest of the sidewalk, and that the space be accessible only through the restaurant and not from the outside.

The applicant also has to submit a drawing of the space, including tables and chairs and how they are arranged, as well as a certificate of insurance that includes the town as an “additional insured party.” It requires the certificate to be a minimum of $2 million for damage or injury related to the business use of the sidewalk. It also has to leave enough space to allow wheelchairs and other supportive devices for those in need, in line with ADA standards.

Cervoni said he was not convinced that the ordinance needs to be changed.

“I thought it was interesting that they chose to regulate outdoor dining based on whether or not they were serving alcohol,” Cervoni said of reading the document. “While I find that interesting, I get the point. While I want to hear what the complainant has to say, I don’t see the need to further regulate, necessarily.”

He said he thought issues with particular businesses could be addressed directly with a small business owner.

Fishbein said he’d like to discuss other changes to the ordinance, saying he’d like to make it a provision that businesses reapply each year for approval, while now there’s no expiration date on approvals. He said that since insurance has to be renewed annually, this would allow businesses to submit new insurance certificates each year.

In another issue, the committee will discuss revisions to its open burn rules Thursday. Last year, it approved an ordinance that made burning in fire pits and commercial outdoor chimineas legal, with certain restrictions. This year, the Fire Department is asking to revise those rules to add that open burning must stop from midnight to 6 a.m., residents have to have the means to extinguish the fire available at the site, and that it has to be attended at all times.

Fire Marshal Carmen Rao said the recommendations were made to the department by residents. One was tired of their neighbors leaving their fire smoking the next day.

“It’s to help people to be a little bit safer, give them some guidance,” Rao said.


Photo by Dave Zajac / Courtesy of the Record-Journal

Above: Patrons of Archie Moore’s bar and restaurant relax across North Main Street.

Photo by Dave Zajac / Courtesy of the Record-Journal

Above: Bartender Tarry Radnoczi talks with customer Debbie Gravell, right, who opted for outdoor dining to celebrate her 59th birthday with her husband, Thirl, on Tuesday at Gaetano’s Tavern on Main in Wallingford.