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West Hartford Votes To Ease Zoning Restrictions On Pond House Restaurant

BILL LEUKHARDT

September 23, 2009

WEST HARTFORD - The town council Tuesday unanimously approved changes to the zoning rules governing the Pond House after a hearing free of the conflict and acrimony earlier this decade when the upscale restaurant was first approved in Elizabeth Park.

By a 9-0 vote, the council supported the closing of the Walbridge Road park entrance and allowing the restaurant which now allows only BYOB service to seek a beer and wine permit, deliver catered meals off-site and end weekend valet parking service.

The changes revise the original permit granted in 2004 when the business first opened in the garden park, a historic landmark owned by Hartford that is in both the city and the town of West Hartford.

Leon Davidoff, the council's Republican minority leader, said the changes are in harmony with the neighborhood, which doesn't have the fears people expressed during the initial application process about a private business in a public park, the impact of traffic and concerns about alcohol consumption by diners.

"This year, we had a regional solution between the town and city without confrontation," he said.

The vote removes some restrictions imposed in the original zoning decision in 2004. The changes were sought by Hartford, the Friends of Elizabeth Park advocacy group and the Food Group LLC, which operates the restaurant in the West Hartford section of the park.

All but one of the 21 people who spoke at a hearing prior to the council vote said they supported the changes and were pleased with the landscaping and other improvements made in the park by the Pond House since 2004.

Most speakers said it's crucial to let Hartford close the Walbridge entrance because drivers using the park as a cut-through sometimes ignore warning signs and exit onto the quiet street, which is home to families with small children.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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