OLD SAYBROOK – To remedy a parking problem which occurs on busy nights at Vinnie’s Saybrook Fish House, owners Lamont Landings, has been eyeing a piece of property across the street for development as a parking lot.
This small 0.74 acre parcel abutting Route 9 in the northeast section of town has been owned by the DOT as a right-of-way since the construction of Route 9 in the late 1960’s.
Lamont Landings has been leasing the property from DOT since June 23, 2006 at a rate of $2,300 per month.
The parcel is bordered by the Route 9 northbound Exit 1 off-ramp, Essex Road, Floral Park Road, and the northbound lanes of Route 9.
Two assessments done by the DOT on this parcel have differed by over $220,000 and DOT Spokesman Kevin Nursick said the department needs to “get the best deal for the state.”
The Department of Transportation appraiser Thomas Krawiec valued the property at $345,025 while Cynthia Bezz from the O’Malley, O’Rourke, and Bezz Appraisal Associates, Inc., valued the property at $123,000.
The appraisal done by Bezz compared the property to three other commercial properties which had access to electric and water utilities.
One of those properties, located about a half mile away from the parcel, is the 0.56 acre vacant “lot 22” on Boston Post Road, which sold for $187,500.
The second property, about three and a half miles away, is the 2.21 acre vacant parcel of 3 A&B Center Road West, which sold for $231,884.
The third property, about three miles away, is the 1.1 acre parcel of 205 Old Boston Post Road, which features a two story Victorian-style building and sold for $154,545.
Estimates done by Krawiec compared the property to three more expensive commercial properties in town, which all had access to electric and water utilities.
The first property, two miles away from the parcel, is a 0.68 acre parcel on Pine Street parcel features a parking lot and garage building and sold for $542,500.
The second, also two miles away, is the 0.26 acre parcel at 1 Main Street, and is the future site of the town’s welcome center, which sold for $250,000.
The third, also two miles away, is the 0.98 acre parcel at 840 Boston Post Road, the future home of the Guilford Savings Bank, which sold for $760,000.
In his assessment, Krawiec stated that “noise from the highway is audible, however not detrimental to the overall value as a parking facility for the nearby restaurant.”
Nursick said that it is unlikely that a sound barrier would be erected by the state on this section of Route 9 since barriers are funded through Pipe 1 Federal Projects.
These projects limit the construction of sound barriers to areas where there are improvements made to a highway to increase its capacity.
While a town or a private individual could erect a sound barrier, Nursick said it is a complicated process since a study must be done to determine a barrier would eliminate highway noise to a nearby neighborhood.
Sound barriers are very expensive to build and properly maintain, Nursick said.
Both assessments determined that restaurant parking is the highest and best use of the property which is located in a residential district.
Variances granted by the Planning and Zoning Commissions allowed the adjacent restaurant to be constructed in a residential zone.
The level rectangular shaped property has access to underground electric, telephone, and water and has adequate drainage.
The Town of Old Saybrook received a letter dated Dec. 22 from DOT Rights of Way Administrator Richard Allen stating that the property was for sale and asking the town if they were interested.
The Board of Selectmen authorized First Selectman Michael Pace to sign an agreement that would transfer the property to the town momentarily and then to the restaurant.
Pace confirmed that while the DOT is selling the property for $345,025, “we (the town of Old Saybrook) are not laying out money” to place an easement on it.
“This board has no interest to buy the property or retain it, this was never our intent,” Pace said, adding that the intent was to place a “first right of refusal” easement, if the restaurant ownership changes.
The purpose is to ensure the parcel is not used to facilitate a business that would be incompatible with the surrounding neighborhood.
“If the town is able to help protect a residential environment, then to me the town has that responsibility,” Selectwoman Velma Thomas said, adding, “It may not be the present owner but a future owner may not have the same values and concerns for the consideration of residents abutting the property.”
Lamont Landings has already received approval with conditions for the construction of a 61-space gravel parking lot with a sidewalk and lighting to be constructed on the parcel.
The intent is to encourage customers to use the adjacent lot when the restaurant lot itself is full rather than forcing them to park alongside residential streets which surround the restaurant.