New London ― A vacant former church on the corner of Starr and Green Street received approval from Planning and Zoning on Thursday evening to become an event venue.
Rod Cornish, owner of the Hot Rod Cafe for 17 years, bought the vacant former Apostolic Cathedral of Hope in April for $315,000. He plans to call the unique space Stone Temple Venue, which is a nod to one of his favorite 1990s rock bands, Stone Temple Pilots.
Last month, he said his intention was to create meeting space and fill a void he sees in the city for weddings, birthdays, retirements or any party with up to 250 people.
Cornish said he has no specific timeline for when the site will be completed.
His request was to change the use of the old church to an event venue and restaurant with a liquor license.
The original request called for extended hours Sunday-Thursday 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. and Friday and Saturday 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. with in-house music and the possibility of live entertainment.
Present at the Thursday evening meeting, Cornish varied his demand from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. throughout the week.
“I’m happy with the result,” Cornish, owner of the property, said on Friday. “I waived the request for extended hours trying to be a good neighbor and the commission did a professional job.”
The vote to approve the change came despite several complaints from Starr Street neighbors at its last meeting. Neighbors have expressed concerns about loud music late at night, smokers, litter on the street, increased foot and car traffic in the neighborhood, etc.
Resident Tony Angell made a final presentation on behalf of the Starr Street Association on Thursday. He said some members of the association had met with Cornish on November 11 to discuss his candidacy.
Angell said the members heard Cornish agree to drop the request for extended hours; describe its plan to include musical performances, concerts and other entertainment for paying audiences of up to several hundred people; and state that indoor waste storage will not be done for sanitary reasons.
He asked the commission to incorporate such restrictions as it deemed appropriate “to balance permitted uses of the property against the interests of neighboring property owners to stabilize and preserve the value of their properties, and to protect and preserve the integrity of the historical and cultural heritage of the city”. heritage as represented in the Starr Street Historic District,” Angell said.
The New London Savings Bank and the city revived Starr Street in dilapidated conditions in the 1970s after completing the renovation of the street and its houses.
Before returning to his seat, Angell said the commission’s regulations did not define the use of an “event venue” and considered the application as a nightclub.
Barry Levine, chairman of the commission, said he did not consider it a nightclub. He asked Cornish if he intended to serve food anytime, to which Cornish said yes.
Cornish said on Friday he planned to charge when he had groups, the venue’s aim is for it to be available to rent for parties.
Levine asked Cornish to review a list of suggested conditions for the special permit, which included a two-year delay on the permit. Planning and zoning official Michelle Scovish said she placed this there for the commission to review.
Cornish said he was not comfortable with the condition of coming back in two years and having to start the process all over again.
Some of the commissioners agreed that it was not necessary. Commissioner Ronna Stuller said while such a delay was more common after the COVID-19 pandemic, her main concerns were the hours requested.
Before the final vote, Commissioner Adam Sprecace proposed adding the two-year time frame to assess its success, saying some of the residents’ comments had not been considered. But the rest of the council ultimately voted against the amendment.
Frank McLaughlin, the acting president of the Starr Street Association, would not say whether the association would seek an appeal of the commission’s decision.