Aug 31, 2014
08:28 AMThe Connecticut Story
Stony Creek Puppet House Plans Have Branford Neighbors Chafing
Arnold Gold/New Haven Register
Keely Baisden Knudsen, artistic director of the Legacy Theatre, holds an artist's rendering of plans for the former Puppet House (background) in the Stony Creek section of Branford. Not everyone in the neighborhood supports the project.
What began as a well-received plan to bring back theatrical performances to Stony Creek’s historic Puppet House is now attracting drama of a different sort: neighborhood backlash.
Most residents living in the densely-packed district have plenty to say but want none of it on the record.
“You can’t quote me,” was the refrain this week from the majority of neighbors questioned about the issue.
The common complaint, according to neighbors polled, is that the theater company that purchased the Puppet House first announced they’d only be hosting about six different performances over a series of six-week runs only to later disclose that the company intends on hosting additional events, including concerts, rentals and parties.
“That’s what we were initially told,” said Dan Bullard, president of the Stony Creek Association SCA). “It seemed like a good idea at the time because the building was falling down.”
Bullard said the theater company is working under a concept that the building predates town zoning rules that were first implemented in December 1956.
Town officials shut down the Puppet House in 2009 due to numerous building and fire code violations.
“They think it’s a continuation of existing use,” Bullard said Friday about The Legacy Theater, a shoreline-based professional theater company that bought the Puppet House property last year. “From a realistic or practical point of view, I think having a theater is a great idea but what we don’t want is wide-open use that could be wedding receptons, parties and a concession stand with alcohol. It’s become a much bigger deal. My understand is that if they need to go to planning and zoning and get a special use permit that certain standards will be requested of them. Doesn’t seem to to sound so onerous to me.”