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With questions about operating hours, facility uses, parking issues and more, Stony Creek Association (SCA) met Aug. 5 to rally residents of the village.
The SCA is encouraging attendance at the Sept. 16 Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) meeting. On Sept. 16, with assistance from an attorney, SCA will appeal to the ZBA concerning the legality of the town’s recent sign-off of tenant fit-up application non-profit Legacy Theatre to renovate the interior of the former Puppet House (128 Thimble Islands Road) for use.
Before the application was approved, the town received a letter from SCA asking the Legacy’s application be denied. Zoning Enforcement Officer Jennifer Acquino signed off on the application in July, following scrutiny of the application which included sending it for review by town counsel. SCA is now concerned with the fall-out the village may endure from Legacy’s use as a “theatre function/party rental space/concert hall” according to SCA meeting notices tacked up around the village in the week leading up to the Aug. 5 meeting.
At the Aug. 5 SCA meeting, SCA president Dan Bullard read a letter from Legacy Theatre president Brian Knudsen, questioning SCA’s authority to post the Aug. 5 meeting notices. Among other inquiries, the letter questioned whether there was proper receipt of approval (including that required by state law) to post notices on utility poles and other areas in the public way.
The hot-pink notices at the heart of Knudsen’s complaint gave date and time of the Aug. 5 meeting and also listed concerns about the Legacy including “new and unrestricted activities, no set hours of operation, no standards (lights, noise etc.), no off-street parking” as issues. The letter from Knudsen also stated the SCA’s pursuit of an appeal of the approved zoning use of the Legacy Theatre is “frivolous.”
Most concerns raised by villagers Aug. 5 had to do with Legacy’s operational hours, parking for those attending events at the 130-seat theater, and worries that an excessive number of performances and events could impact the community at large -- for example, flooding the village with traffic/audiences for as many as six performances a week, as one SCA member described it.
No representative of the Legacy Theatre spoke at the Aug. 5 meeting. The Sound/Zip06’s request for comments received an Aug. 7 response that a statement would be issued but as of press time a statement had not been received. Any statement/update received past press time will be posted at www.zip06.com/branford.
On Legacy Theatre’s website (www.legacytheatrect.org), the non-profit represents the buildings’ use as being up to five days a week, with evening performances scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. and to be ‘cleared out’ by 10 p.m., “…in respect of our local community and neighbors.”
One resident who lives in close proximity to the building said he was worried the Legacy will be turned into a “wedding factory,” due to party rental space use.
SCA is currently circulating a petition stating the under-signers are opposed to the permit granted and that,“…due to the historic use of the property, the change in activity proposed by the Legacy Theatre and the impact of proposed use on the neighboring property owners, the town of Branford should require that the Legacy Theatre apply for special exception, so the Planning and Zoning Commission can hold a public hearing to ensure that all interested parties are heard; and if approved, appropriate safeguards are imposed to protect the neighborhood.”
At the Aug. 5 meeting, an audience member asked the SCA Executive Board if SCA’s goal is to “block” the Legacy Theatre from coming to Stony Creek, or if it is to have more say in, “…what they do or when they use it.”
Bullard answered, “I think different people on the board have different opinions of that. It is my opinion that they should go through the Planning and Zoning process.”