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West Hartford Board Approves Closing Walbridge Road Entrance To Elizabeth Park


September 04, 2009

WEST HARTFORD — - A proposal to close the entrance to Elizabeth Park off Walbridge Road won approval from the town's inland-wetlands commission after a public hearing late Wednesday at which no one opposed the plan.

The city of Hartford, owner of the garden park that straddles the Hartford- West Hartford line, wants to eliminate that entrance as part of several changes it seeks in how it operates its Pond House restaurant in the park.

The plan and zoning commission, which also acts as the town inland-wetlands commission, gave its support to the request to close off the entrance, blocking it with planters until pavement can be removed.

A few people spoke at the hearing in support of the closure, Deputy Corporation Counsel Patrick Alair said Thursday.

The hearing was low-key in contrast to the zoning battle between Hartford and West Hartford from 2001 to 2004 over plans to upgrade the Pond House and the way it conducts business. The friction then centered on debates of park use, impact on the neighborhood, allowing a commercial venture and permitting alcohol in a park.

This summer, officials from the Pond House, the nonprofit Friends of Elizabeth Park and Hartford met at the restaurant with park neighbors to discuss the proposals. Residents' concerns about the Walbridge entrance were among the topics raised.

Even though the Walbridge entrance is clearly marked one-way, some drivers use it to exit the park, which causes Walbridge Road residents to worry about safety on their quiet street. Getting rid of the entrance would make it nearly impossible for drivers to exit the park onto Walbridge, Alair said Thursday.

The other changes that Hartford and co-applicants Friends of Elizabeth Park and the Food Group LLC, which runs the restaurant, will be discussed Sept. 22 at a town council hearing.

The changes include eliminating a requirement for weekend valet parking for people attending Pond House functions, allowing the Pond House Café to seek a state permit to serve wine and beer to patrons and allowing the restaurant to provide off-site catering.

At Wednesday's hearing, Food Group owner Louis Lista said the prohibition of off-site catering and the lack of a beer and wine license hurt the business economically, barring the Pond House from opportunities open to other restaurants.

Right now, Pond House patrons must bring their own wine if they wish to drink it at the restaurant. Patrons will still be able to bring their own wine, even if the business is able to get a wine and beer permit, Lista said.

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.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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