At a meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday, June 3, Mr. Fischer, a neighbor of Cobb’s Mill Inn, complained that the restaurant is playing loud music on weekend evenings late at night into the early morning hours, and it was disturbing.
He said even with his doors and windows closed, throbbing bass from Cobb’s Mill could be heard throughout his home. He asked P&Z if they could do anything to help. “It’s like a nightclub,” he said.
Mr. Fischer said he has called the police several times to complain about the noise, but was told the town did not have a noise ordinance so all they can do is ask Drew Friedman, the owner of the Cobb’s Mill Inn, to quiet down.
Mr. Fischer said he also tried speaking with Mr. Friedman directly, but nothing was done to alleviate the noise.
Another problem Mr. Fischer has is with bright lights from Cobb’s Mill shining into his home. That problem was somewhat alleviated, he said, after he complained to Jim Pjura, the town’s code enforcement officer, who investigated it. “I noticed it’s better now,” he said.
The main problem, Mr. Fischer said, is the noise, and he fears it will get worse because Cobb’s Mill has announced plans to start holding outdoor musical concerts on Sundays.
Mr. Fischer and his wife Karen are new to Weston. They bought their home at 130 Newtown Turnpike in April from Andrew and Christine Medvedev. Their house, with the striking green roof, is directly across the West Branch of the Saugatuck River from the Cobb’s Mill Inn. The Medvedevs, before they moved, had also complained about noise from there.
For years, Cobb’s Mill Inn, a former mill and historic property at 12 Old Mill Road, primarily operated as a restaurant and venue for weddings and celebrations. There weren’t complaints of noise until recently, said Fran Blackman, another neighbor.
Mr. Friedman, a real estate developer from Westport, bought the Cobb’s Mill property in 2011, after it sat vacant for months when the previous owner went out of business. Partnering with Elayne Cassara, the pair now call the restaurant La Roue Elayne at Cobb’s Mill Inn. There is also a café on site called J.K. Cafe at Cobb’s Mill Inn.
The Cobb’s Mill property is classified as a non-conforming use in a residential zone.
In 2011, Mr. Friedman asked P&Z to change the property’s zoning and create a Neighborhood Event District, to allow overnight guest accommodations, entertainment, museums, and community educational activities.
At a well-attended public hearing, strong opposition was voiced against the zoning change and the proposal was rejected.
Stephan Grozinger, who was P&Z chairman at the time, suggested an alternative proposal, to create a Village District which would allow office, retail and restaurant use, but would otherwise put stringent restrictions on the property. “If we complete this regulation and pass it, it will represent the most stringent control imposed on commercial buildings in Weston in 65 years,” Mr. Grozinger said at the time.
However, the public was strongly opposed to any changes, and that proposal failed, too.
Mr. Fischer told P&Z that although Mr. Friedman did not get his zoning changed, bit by bit he was conducting activities that were changing the use, and it was becoming more of a nightclub and less of a restaurant.
Commissioner Ken Edgar said there was no immediate relief P&Z could offer.
Since the Sunday concerts hadn’t started yet, there was no complaint to be made about noise from them. He said if a complaint was made about the Sunday concerts, P&Z would look into the history of the property to see if outdoor musical events had occurred there before, and on what basis.
For a non-conforming property, the issue comes down to abandonment, Mr. Edgar said, and whether there was an intent to abandon an authorized use.
The commission recommended Mr. Fischer discuss a noise ordinance with the selectmen, as that is outside P&Z’s purview.