The owner of Cobb’s Mill Inn, now known as La Roue Elayne at Cobb’s Mill Inn, may continue to make improvements to a parking lot at 12 Old Mill Road.
The Planning and Zoning Commission approved the issuance of a soil disturbance permit for the parking lot at a meeting on Monday, April 16.
The restaurant’s owner, Drew Friedman, had asked for the permit in order to make improvements on a lower level parking lot across the street from the historic landmark restaurant.
After reviewing a number of maps and documents, the commission decided to grant the permit.
The application had come under fire by Cobb’s Mill neighbor Xu Cheng, whose property abuts the parking lot. Mr. Cheng claimed at an earlier meeting that the parking lot, which adjoins a main upper level lot, was at one time two tennis courts, and therefore its use as a parking lot had been abandoned.
The Cobb’s Mill property is located in a residential neighborhood, and is classified as a pre-existing nonconforming use. As such, zoning permits for any and all proposed uses and renovation proposals need to be reviewed and approved by P&Z.
Nonconforming properties have strict guidelines and prohibitions about expanding or changing their use. The properties revert back to residential use if their original nonconforming use is deemed to be “abandoned.”
The commission reviewed photographs provided by Mr. Cheng and an aerial map provided by Mr. Friedman and concluded that the area had been used as a parking lot in the 1950s. It further concluded that the placement of boulders and planting of trees on the property in the 2000s did not interfere with the use of the land and therefore did not constitute abandonment.
Plans are in the works to re-open the restaurant on the property, which closed its doors in 2010.
Mr. Friedman and Elayne Cassara, the restaurant’s decorator and entertainment coordinator, have expressed interest in running a cabaret on the Cobb’s Mill property.
The commission told Mr. Friedman he could not assume a “cabaret and entertainment” use for the property was legal and he would need to come back to the commission to state what he proposes.