CHATHAM – After more than two years of stop work orders, zoning board hearings and court battles, resolution has finally been reached over the use of two properties on Chatham Bars Avenue owned by Chatham Bars Inn.
The zoning board recently tied up loose ends on permits for 45 and 20 Chatham Bars Ave., properties that the Shore Road inn had owned for years and bought back in 2015 from a previous owner of the inn for $2 million.
The building at 20 Chatham Bars Ave., originally used by the inn as housing for chauffeurs and other employees, will now serve as office space with one five-bedroom apartment on the second floor for inn workers. Across the street, the 45 Chatham Bars Ave., built as a garage but known by many as the former bowling alley, will be used as storage, a workshop and office space by the inn. Both buildings were built in 1914 as part of the original inn construction.
Neighbors, who originally objected to what they saw as unpermitted use of the former bowling alley for the transfer of inn laundry, worked with the inn and town officials to negotiate the final uses of the structures and the dismissal of lawsuits filed by CBI, the town's largest private employer.
On March 14 the zoning board of appeals put its many hearings on the properties over the past two years to rest, allowing the withdrawal of an appeal of a cease and desist order issued by the town on 45 Chatham Bars Ave., and granting final approval of two special permits allowing the mixed use at 20 Chatham Bars Ave.
“I'm sure everybody will be glad to get it resolved,” commented ZBA member Paul Semple.
Neighbors first reported activity at the 45 Chatham Bars Ave. building in 2016, observing trucks loading and unloading laundry after there had been no activity there for years. In October the town issued an order to the inn to stop the activity. The building commissioner's order stated the building's previous use as a warehouse had been abandoned, and while CBI contended that it had always stored items there, the zoning board ruled in favor of the town. CBI sued the town over the decision.
In 2017 the inn obtained a building permit to put a kitchen in the 20 Chatham Bars Ave. building and housed workers there for the summer. But at the end of the season, in response to neighbors' complaints, the building commissioner ruled that the building was being used as a dormitory, which was not allowed in the residential zoning district.
Several permits had been issued over the years for the 45 Chatham Bars Ave. property, which was a bowling alley before it became a warehouse. But because the 9,940-square foot building is in a residential district, the use was considered nonconforming. Town officials and representatives of CBI spent months negotiating over a settlement, eventually agreeing to allow the inn to use the building for storage, a workshop and an office for its facilities department. CBI agreed to limit the hours of deliveries and to upgrade landscaping to satisfy neighbors.
The inn first proposed to create apartments in the 20 Chatham Bars Ave. building to avoid the dormitory use, eventually cutting the number from five separate units to one five-bedroom apartment. Offices on the first and second floor allow the building to be considered mixed use, which CBI officials said was appropriate for the location, which sits on the border between commercial and residential zoning districts.
Zoning board chairman David Nixon had requested a letter from inn owner Richard Cohen regarding his support for the settlements, and that came Feb. 20. “We thank you for your support regarding the redevelopment of the property,” read the letter, signed by Cohen and inn managing director Gary Thulander. “We are looking forward to utilizing the facility and, of course, are willing to comply with the approved plans and conditions that have been negotiated between the neighbors to the property, the town, the zoning board and the planning board.”
Nixon said he hopes the neighbors will still be happy with the settlement a few years from now and that CBI won't change its position and seek other uses for the properties.