Vote postponed on fate of Elms Hotel at Crescent Beach

East Lyme -The Crescent Beach Association's Zoning Board of Appeals took a closer look Tuesday at a plan to tear down The Elms Hotel and replace it with a three-lot residential subdivision, but the panel put off any vote until Monday.

Jude Cleary, the owner of The Elms, and Robert Barbaro of Barbaro Property Management, the potential buyer, had applied to the board for a variance to the association's zoning laws, which stipulate that each lot in the neighborhood must be at least 7,500 square-feet.

The applicants would build three smaller lots on The Elms Hotel property at the corner of Ocean and Bayview avenues across from Crescent Beach. The more-than-a-century-old hotel is considered a nonconforming use under the association's zoning. The applicants also are seeking a variance to allow a reduced setback for one of the lots.

The plan under consideration calls for one 6,814-square-foot lot and one 4,961-square-foot lot, both with driveways onto Bayview Avenue. The third lot, at 4,389 square feet, would have a driveway on Ocean Avenue.

At the public hearing on Tuesday, Barbaro said a three-lot subdivision at 25-27 Ocean Ave. would better conform to the residential neighborhood than does the existing hotel. He said the proposed lots would be similar to other lots in the neighborhood, many of which are grandfathered at an average of 5,000 square feet.

"They're just a touch smaller, and they're in harmony with what we have down there," he said.

Barbaro said he and his business partner each plan to purchase and live in a house in the subdivision. He described the existing property as being in and out of sale over the last few years and being in a state of disrepair.

He said he has a purchase agreement on the property, but there are financial complications, including liens.

In their deliberations, members of the ZBA said their purview is to consider grounds for hardship under the zoning laws. Chairman Jack Pasquale said there were cases in Connecticut in which the board could weigh additional considerations to prove hardship, such as the health, safety and welfare of a community. The ZBA is expected to review those cases before continuing deliberations at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the association's community center.

If the variance is granted, the applicants would need to seek other approvals before building the residences.

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