The owner of Toad’s Place is taking his plan for a rooftop terrace to court.
Toad’s owner Brian Phelps last week appealed the New Haven Board of Zoning Appeals’ decision Sept. 9 to reject his proposal for a rooftop terrace, sending the matter to New Haven Superior Court. In an interview Thursday, Phelps said he is determined to see Toad’s build a place for smokers and fellow partiers to take a break from the dance floor in an area where alcohol will not be sold.
Moreover, he expressed bewilderment at the fact that the zoning board opposed the proposal, which was approved by the city’s fire marshal, Traffic and Parking Department, and City Plan Commission in August.
“Everything was good,” Phelps said. “The BZA was expected to rubber stamp what the others had approved. Instead, it is now just a complete disappointment.”
But Phelps’ appeal is not the only development of the past few weeks. Phelps said he has hired a new attorney, Marjorie Shansky. Previously, Phelps had been represented by James Segaloff of Susman, Duffy & Segaloff, P.C., who is no longer involved with the case due to a conflict of interest, said James Perito, an attorney at the firm who specializes in zoning law. The conflict came about, Perito explained, because the firm represents the city.
Shansky declined to comment about the case when reached last week.
When asked why the zoning board rejected Phelps’ plans for the rooftop terrace by a vote of 3 to 2, acting member of the board Regina Winters said “every member [of the board] had their own reason” for voting as they did, adding that the decision was based on what effect the terrace would have on York Street parking.
Phelps, who continues to fight for his vision of a Toad’s rooftop lounge, said he is astounded by what he sees as a speculative decision that the terrace would be a parking hazard, said he did not think that zoning board chairwoman Cathy Weber’s should have conducted a self-study of the parking available around the club.
At the September hearing at which the board rejected Phelps’ proposal, Weber said she had visited the club on several occasions and was “not too pleased” with the parking situation. She said that due to Toad’s, nighttime parking on York Street and Broadway was “at, if not over, capacity.”
“The BZA should not have made their own study, especially since the Traffic and Parking Department had already approved it,” Phelps said. “I think the Board’s decision was based against the concept of smoking and drinking.” (In August, New Haven’s Traffic and Parking Department issued a report that stated it did not anticipate any transportation problems resulting from the terrace.)
All 10 Yale students interviewed also said they were shocked that the BZA rejected the rooftop plans on the grounds of parking risks.
“Nobody drives to Toad’s,” said Sophia Sklaviadis ’13. “The terrace could be good if done right.” She added that it would be fun for the dance club to have an outdoor area.
Others, like Matthew George ’11, said they think Toad’s had the right idea by keeping smokers off the street.
“Toad’s should have a smoker’s area,” George said. “If it must be on the roof, then so be it.”
Indeed, Phelps maintains that a rooftop terrace would benefit Yale students as well as the neighborhood and that the new smokers’ area would not put pedestrians at risk.
While a hearing date for Phelps’ appeal has not yet been scheduled, it will not occur until the Court has assessed all transcripts and files on the record from the case put before the zoning board.