Borough officials weighing options for Church Street

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By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer

A temporary outdoor dining area is set up in front of La Casita Cantina & Restaurant on Church Street in Naugatuck. Borough officials are exploring making this section of the street one-way to accommodate more permanent outdoor dining. –ANDREAS YILMA

NAUGATUCK — Borough officials are considering changes to a section of Church Street to make the downtown atmosphere more vibrant for businesses.

At the center of discussions is making the section of Church Street between Rubber Avenue and Maple Street one-way to allow for outdoor dining for restaurants.

“We have a lot of restaurants who have some preliminary interest,” said Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess as the Board of Mayor and Burgesses discussed the idea at its May 4 meeting.

The borough has allowed restaurants to have temporary outdoor dining during the COVID-19 pandemic. Potential changes to Church Street could pave the way for more permanent outdoor seating for restaurants along the road.

Tibu Cardenas, manager of La Casita Cantina & Restaurant on Church Street, said a one-way street would be better for traffic. The restaurant offers temporary outdoor dining now, and he said there are plans for more seating outside.

Cardenas said people are anxious to leave their homes after spending a lot of time inside recently.

“People are excited for the summer,” Cardenas said. “They want to go out.”

Church Street is 36 feet wide, according to Hess. Structures for outdoor seating would take up about 7 feet. If one-way traffic was implemented, the lane to accommodate a fire truck would be 18 feet wide, he said.

The consensus among burgesses was that making the street one-way is a good idea worth exploring further.

“I’m very much in favor of putting the street one-way and in improvements whatsoever,” Burgess Carl Herb said. “It can only encourage other businesses to come out with more outside display.”

The parking options along Church Street, if it were a one-way road, could be angled parking, parallel parking or a combination of both.

Burgess Rocky Vitale said anything that helps businesses is “absolutely great” and he wants to review the different options

“Anything that can help Church Street become more vibrant,” Burgess Mike Bronko said. “I think if we get it right, this will be a good idea.”

The board planned to hold another meeting to discuss Church Street. Hess said he wants to hear the public’s thoughts and deal with any potential issues, before making a decision on how to move forward.