The New Haven Board of Zoning rejected Toad’s Place owner Brian Phelps’ proposal to build a rooftop terrace. The decision, made on Sept. 9, was a shock to the owner, who appealed the decision and took the committee to court.
Toad’s Place is frequented by many college students throughout the weekend. In order to accomodate with even more people and to make it more comfortable, Phelps proposed the idea of having a terrace atop the roof of the club on York Street.
“It would be for smokers,” Phelps said. “Instead of going outside the club, they could go up on the roof and sit at a table and finish their drink while smoking. It would be more comfortable for them and it would remove the unsightly group of smokers from the front of the club.”
When taken to the various committees, Phelps’ proposal was denied.
“The City Planning Office OK’d the project as well as the city’s Traffic & Parking Deptartment and the Fire Marshal,” he said. “The Chairwoman of Zoning said that there are too many cars located in the York Street area.”
After it passed various councils, the Zoning Committee rejected the proposal for the rooftop terrace for worries of parking spaces.
The Board of Zoning Appeals voted 3-2 to reject the proposal after chairwoman Cathy Weber said at the meeting that there were parked cars in this area during her visits.
In response to this, Phelps took action and decided to sue the Zoning Committee for what he believed to be a reason that “didn’t make sense,” he said. “Especially since the city’s own ‘Traffic & Parking Dept’ did a study and were in favor of the project.”
After having to switch lawyers because his company’s corporate lawyer worked for the city, Phelps is now being represented by attorney Marjorie Shansky. In a New Haven Register article, she characterized the board’s actions as “illegal, arbitrary, capricious, and in abuse of its discretion.”
“There won’t be any change (if there is no terrace), but change is what I wanted,” Phelps said. “Toad’s would be improved with a smoking lounge on the roof.”
Although the estimation of the length of the court case could take up to a year, “we hope to reach an agreement with the city before it reaches the judge,” Phelps said. “Maybe if we fine-tune a few small things in our proposal, everyone will be happy.”