NAUGATUCK – Blue laws that have governed where liquor can be sold in Naugatuck for the past 54 years will finally get an update.
The Zoning Commission voted March 16 to loosen its liquor regulations, eliminating restrictions that prohibit alcohol from being served within 300 feet of a church, school, charitable institution, library or hospital.
The new regulations also relax the 1,500-foot rule. Formerly, package stores in Naugatuck couldn’t be within 1,500 feet of each other. Under the new regulations, liquor stores can be located within 500 feet of another liquor store. They also specify that the distance will be measured by walking distance along public roadways.
Zoning Enforcement Officer Steven Macary said the current regulations are unfair to business owners.
The new regulations go into effect May 1 in response to the planned downtown revitalization project.
Under the new regulations, if someone wants to retrofit an existing building to serve alcohol, they would require a simple site plan approval, but new construction will have to submit for a new special permit.
The new requirements are based on the zoning district in which the building is proposed. For example, buildings over 10,000 feet or that include drive-through facilities will only be allowed in specific areas of town.
“It was a great relief that they were passed. It opens up some additional avenues for economic development,” said Keith Rosenfeld, the town planner, and author of the regulations.
The new regulations pave the way for a vision of Renaissance Place populated with family-friendly restaurants where people can go out for a meal and grab a beer or glass of wine.
“It really takes us out of the speakeasy generation,” Rosenfeld said. “These are much more respectable establishments that we’re looking for.”
Macary said he would like downtown Naugatuck to be more like parts of downtown Middletown.
“They have beautiful restaurants, outdoor dining, patios. It’s a very nice place to go. It’s very family oriented. That’s what I’d like here,” Macary said.
Under state laws, Naugatuck can only have 12 liquor stores based on its population, so only a few new liquor stores could be established under the new regulations.
Kevin Ploski hopes to open one of those new stores on Meadow Street, within 1,500 feet of Paivas Liquors on Rubber Avenue.
Although the Zoning Board of Appeals granted him a variance to do so, the project has been tied up in a lawsuit filed by Savario D’Archangelo, owner of Mountview Plaza Wines and Liquors. D’Archangelo’s store isn’t within 1,500 feet of the planned store on Meadow Street. However, he felt the town should have followed borough regulations and not granted the variance.
The new regulations would seem to eliminate the basis for the appeal, according to attorney Edward Fitzpatrick, who’s representing the Zoning Board of Appeals in the case.
“Our feeling is the legal impact of the regulations would seem to make the current pending case dismissible. We will await the effective date of the act and the appropriate appeal period before we take the necessary steps to attempt terminate the litigation,” Fitzpatrick said.
Fitzpatrick said the town is hopeful the litigation will end shortly.
D’Archangelo said he doesn’t know whether he will continue to pursue the lawsuit as he has not yet discussed it with his attorney.
Under the new regulations, Ploski may apply for a site plan approval.
Ploski could not be reached for comment before this post.