Photo: George Rozopoulos before the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Wilmington businessman George Rozopoulos could only shake his head minutes after the Belmont Zoning Board of Appeals voted 3-1 to deny the applicant of three Rizzo’s Roast Beef & Pizza outlets the opportunity to open his fourth on Belmont Hill.
“Very disappointed,” he told the Belmontonian after the meeting held in the uncomfortable confines of the un-air conditioned Belmont Gallery of Art in the Homer Building at the Board’s meeting on Monday, July 13,
Despite being “grandfathered” in the town’s zoning book as a commercial site, a majority of the board followed the lead of several nearby homeowners who spoke on a laundry list of concerns the 18-seat restaurant would present to the residential nature of the neighborhood.
“If this were a convenience store … I would have no problem because it would be grandfather … but restaurants bring new issues” on the area, said ZBA Chair Eric Smith.
Rozopoulos can appeal the decision in court or wait a year before resubmitting an application.
The building at 92 Park Ave. – the location until the early 1990s of Sage’s Market and two recently unsuccessful retail operations, Belmont Market and Olive Deli – is located adjacent to the intersection of the access road off of and on to Route 2 a stone’s throw from Arlington. It shares the lot with Fresh Start Contracting.
The town designated nine parking spaces on either side of Park Avenue to the site.
Many of the residents concerns were based on their personal observations that the pizzeria would create parking issues in the surrounding residential neighborhoods and along Park, which experiences morning and evening congestion.
“Do nine spaces exist? I would say ‘yes’ but on a practical basis, I’d say no,” said Janet Coleman of Knox Street, one of the leaders opposing the pizzeria. “It’s not a place for a restaurant,” she added.
Stating that he “nothing against the restaurant,” Rutledge Road’s Fred Haggerty commented that current traffic is backed up into Belmont Center during the afternoon rush hours, “so there is no good access to parking,” made only worse since there was no plan for employee parking at the site. The result will be cars lining the nearby residential roads.
Other concerns included rats and mice seeking to feast on meat in the trash, wild animals, the smell of grease and having an “entertainment” center that would include customers watching baseball games on televisions in the restaurant.
Referring to Rozopoulos’ statement to the town he hoped the “location would be cool” place for kids and parents could come and enjoy a meal, “you may want to make this a hip place but not on Belmont Hill,” said Knox Street’s Jean Harrington.
After the vote, Rozopoulos said he felt the residents had misdirected their ire onto him rather than the true culprit.
“[Parking and traffic] has nothing to do with me. It’s there now, it was there before, and it will continue to be there,” said Rozopoulos. “I felt [those in opposition] concentrated more on existing parking issues and that’s a town responsibility. It didn’t have anything to do with the restaurant.”
“Any type of business that goes there is going to be traffic there is nothing you can do,”
said Lisa Haslam of Keller Williams Realty, the location’s real estate agent.
“More and more people are coming with convenience stores, but they always fail. We’ve had a very difficult time to find someone who is well established, who can come in and know what they are doing. [Rozopoulos] has shown he knows how to run a business,” Haslam told the Belmontonian.
“This is another business not coming to Belmont,” she said.