Groton files lawsuit against Spicer Mansion

January 3, 2019

The most recent restoration of the stately 1853 home of Elihu Spicer, whom The Day described in his obituary as the “most prominent man in Mystic,” was indeed done, as an article in the New York Times travel section raved last year, with impeccable taste.

The Spicer Mansion, made into a guest house that has already earned a crown of travel stars in luxury hotel ratings, is magnificent and certainly one of the finest example of 19th century architecture in Mystic.  It is also an excellent addition to Mystic’s tourism infrastructure.

The trouble is, according to town zoning enforcement officials, the business is violating a number of zoning rules, including running a restaurant and bar in a residential neighborhood.

The business has permission only to rent rooms as a bed and breakfast and serve meals to those guests, according to a cease and desist letter the town sent to the owners in August. The letter cited advertising for a restaurant on the premises and events, like weddings, that the town says violate zoning for the location on Elm Street.

Spicer Mansion is directly across the street from the Mystic & Noank Library, another magnificent building that Elihu Spicer commissioned on land he donated for that purpose.

The town in October filed a lawsuit in Superior Court, still pending, that seeks temporary and permanent injunctions to enforce the August cease and desist order, which the town claims the business has not complied with.

The owners of the property never appealed the order, the lawsuit says, and it is now final.

The lawsuit also is seeking sanctions for willful violation of the zoning laws and possible fines of up to 429,480 investment he is owed.

Bonnano said he could not comment on any of the pending lawsuits.

Two of the creditors include food suppliers, including a gourmet food company from the state of Washington that claims it wasn’t paid 76-a-pound Japanese Wagyu sirloin that it shipped to the mansion.

I would agree with the New York Times travel writer that Spicer Mansion would indeed be “ideal for a relaxing weekend escape” any season of the year. With room prices that start in the hundreds of dollars, it makes a opulent addition to what Mystic offers visitors.

The restaurant menu would make your mouth water.

Aesthetically, it is a Mystic treasure towering over neighboring rooftops, an architectural wedding cake of granite and clapboard and columns and double hung windows. It’s a pleasure to see it so grandly kept.

But, alas, it stands in a single-family neighborhood, where the owners of other fine historic houses don’t expect or deserve a restaurant or wedding venue next door. Commercial activity is supposed to stop with the renting of rooms.

I wish everyone well in the negotiations that it took a lawsuit to ignite. But I don’t see much room for any solution short of full compliance with town zoning.

This is the opinion of David Collins.


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