NORTH HAVEN — Last September, Town Fair Tire’s interest in relocating to the site of the Rustic Oak restaurant on Route 5 was in jeopardy, but this week the Planning & Zoning Commission approved its application, setting the stage for the store’s relocation.
“It was a hot button issue for a lot of people who would have preferred a restaurant, but it wasn’t in the cards,” said James Giulietti, a commission member, after the application was unanimously approved. “...They addressed the public safety and health concerns and the issue of the oak trees.”
Rustic Oak closed in early 2014.
The Zoning Board of Appeals issued a variance on Dec. 17 granting Town Fair the right to locate a store within 500 feet of Grover Wyman Park with a stipulation that only tire-related work can be performed at the business. The Planning & Zoning Commission approved Town Fair’s application with the same restriction.
In September, there was public opposition to the move. Residents preferred to see another restaurant move into the Rustic Oak site, 165 Washington Ave., and sought to protect the historic oak trees that surround the property.
Town Fair responded to public sentiment by agreeing to save eight of the 12 oak trees and plant additional trees.
There were few other comments from the commission during the meeting.
The comments from the public were all favorable.
Mary White said, “I’m pleased to learn they’ll save the trees.”
Said Sherman Katz, “This is the best use of this land. It will fill a void and the company will keep it clean.”
Tom White said, “I’m impressed with their use of modern technologies. And there will be no health risk to the community.”
Only Richard LoPresti, chairman of the Economic Development Commission, expressed concern. He asked if any other Town Fair properties are bordered by two restaurants, like the Washington Avenue site will be. “A smaller restaurant could operate with limited parking spaces and another property would be more suitable,” he said.
Dan Rubino, Town Fair’s director of strategic operations, said, “Town Fair will be a free standing store with buffers to the restaurants, and we do have other locations located next to restaurants.”
Rubino didn’t directly comment on LoPresti’s remark about a more suitable location, but said earlier that the store seeks to remain close to its existing location in the Stop & Shop Plaza and the Washington Avenue location is a good-size space located between I-91 and Washington Avenue that will allow the company to provide efficient service.
Neil Mellen, the owner of Town Fair Tire, said, “We’ve been in North Haven for 31 years and haven’t changed a thing. We only do tires. The old store is like a bowling alley, and we want to give North Haven something you can be proud of. We’ve done everything we can to make North Haven proud of our store.”
Rubino said the company plans to move forward with construction within six to 12 months.
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