DANBURY, Conn. — The owner of a new downtown cafe has filed an appeal against the Zoning Commission and Sportech Venues Inc. in response to a decision that allows Off-Track Betting in restaurants in Danbury.
Andrea Gartner is the owner of the new Pour Me Coffee & Wine Cafe and the former executive director of CityCenter Danbury.
The owner of another Main Street cafe is also concerned.
"Mothership on Main has a very wholesome and family-friendly customer base which we have worked hard to build," said Mothership co-owner Andrea White. "We would like to not only maintain that base, but add to it. We plead with anyone who has the ability to push stop, or even pause the progress of OTB in the Downtown Danbury area to do so. Please consider those of us who have already invested so much of ourselves to help revitalize Main Street, and how this will impact us."
Garner's attorney, Peter S. Olson of Land Use & Conservation Counsel in Bethel, said he is confident in the appeal. The Zoning Commission cites the Plan of Conservation and Development for its decision, "but that document does not provide any support for gambling as a recommended entertainment use in Danbury neighborhoods, including downtown. ... In addition, [the decision] opens up vast swaths of the city to the possibility of Off-Track Betting."
On March 20, Sportech Venues filed an application with the commission to amend Danbury zoning regulations to allow OTB. It had already made leasing arrangements with Two Steps Downtown Grille to set up shop.
The nine-member Zoning Commission held a four-hour public hearing April 11, then the hearing was continued to April 25 and lasted until 12:10 a.m.
Despite opposition at the hearings and a petition with 170 signatures opposing the text amendment, the Zoning Commission on May 9 voted 6-3 to approve the application.
But Gartner said the location is inappropriate, citing the location near the campuses of Western Connecticut State University and Naugatuck Valley Community College as well as the CityCenter Danbury Green, where families gather for summer concerts and the Taste of Greater Danbury.
Gartner also believes the intention of ordinances to promote development in the Downtown Revitalization Zoning Overlay have been compromised.
"There is a real concern of business and property owners of the impact on the neighborhood where the needy tread White Street because there are no immediate 24/7 quarters and services — leading to potential issues of health, safety, or welfare given a misplaced gambling culture and the devaluation of downtown properties," she said.
Jehad Sabbagh, a Downtown Danbury resident, also objects to the OTB decision. "Recent additions to Downtown Danbury are moving the city in the right direction," he said. "Gambling to be successful needs people to lose their money while disguised as family entertainment. This is neither healthy or wholesome for our community."