By Michael P. Walsh
Special to the Voice
The former Captain’s Galley restaurant at 15 Beach St. was demolished on Friday to rid the neighborhood — and a prime stretch of the city’s shoreline — of a long-standing eyesore.
The one-story building, leveled by an excavator from contractor RWM Excavating LLC of Thill Street, had fallen into disrepair after the popular seafood eatery closed its doors in 2010.
The .30-acre property is owned by brothers Paul and Jim Gagliardi, whose family has owned and operated Jimmies of Savin Rock restaurant at 5 Rock St. since 1925.
The Gagliardis, who paid for the demolition, said the site had been inactive because of its current nonconforming use, meaning that if there had ever been a fire or major flood, any current or future owner would not have been able to rebuild the Galley.
Those restrictions were relaxed on June 9, however, when Section 8-2 of the Connecticut General Statutes, “Nonconforming Uses, Buildings or Structures,” was amended and adopted by the state to protect owners of nonconforming properties. The law took effect July 1.
To mirror the state law, the city amended and adopted Section 81 of the West Haven Zoning Regulations, “Nonconforming Uses, Lots or Structures,” on Oct. 10, opening up negotiations between the Gagliardis and the city to raze the Galley, said Mayor Edward M. O’Brien, adding that the law took effect Oct. 30.
“I am happy to see progress on this property, and I know the residents of West Haven will be happy to see it as well,” O’Brien said. “Our focus now has to be ensuring that the property is utilized in the best possible way for West Haven and is consistent with our Plan of Conservation and Development.”
“This was an important step forward for revitalizing the Beach Street area,” he said.
City officials, meantime, are working to change the Galley’s zone from a nonconforming use in an R-2 residential zone to a Shoreline Residential Retail District, said Joseph A. Riccio Jr., commissioner of planning and development.
Riccio said the latter would allow a restaurant as of right. It would also permit three stories under current regulations, but the city’s newly adopted Plan of Conservation and Development recommends modifying that to four stories, he said.
The Galley property flanks the Old Field Creek salt marsh and sits across the street from the Sandy Point Beach & Bird Sanctuary, a site listed on the Connecticut Coastal Birding Trail.