Restaurateur/Bpt. Dem Chair Testa trying again to change master plan

For the past five years Mario Testa, the city’s Democratic Party chief, has been trying to alter the zoning around his Madison Avenue restaurant, Testo’s.

And he’s taking another shot at the Feb. 25 meeting of the Zoning Commission. The agenda was released Thursday.

1773, 1843 & 1849 Madison Ave. – Petition of 1775 Madison Investments, LLC & 1849 Madison Investments, LLC – Seeking a map amendment to the 2008 Master Plan of Conservation and Development (Table 14-1) – future land use plan from a residential zone to a mixed use zone.

Testo’s address at 1775 Madison Ave. has been home for decades to taverns/restaurants. In 2005 Testa demolished prior tenant Three Door Restaurant for his Italian eatery and caterer.

The food service use has been grandfathered into an otherwise residential zone. Testa wants his property and some adjacent land re-zoned for mixed use, allowing him to expand a parking lot. To do so the city needs to amend the area’s master plan.

Neighbors and their state representative, Jack Hennessy, fear Testa’s true goal is to eventually sell the site to Sacred Heart University or another buyer who would be constrained by existing zoning but could build something even bigger/busier if the changes go through.

“He’s saying it’s for parking but he could just flip it once he gets the zone change and be out of the business,” Hennessy said Thursday night. “That’s what people are assuming is going to happen.”

Hennessy is collecting signatures on a petition to present to zoning commissioners Monday.

Testa could not be reached Thursday, but I’ll cut the guy some slack since he runs a restaurant and it’s Valentine’s Day.

In the past Testa has argued the residential zone affects Testo’s ability to “obtain sufficient financing for its utilization of the property” and future damage to the restaurant could strip Testa of his right to run it there.

Dee Manento, who lives five houses away and is a veteran of the zoning battles over Testo’s, does not understand why Testa keeps asking for the changes.

“He just keeps coming and coming like a barracuda,” Manento said.


Testa’s proposal is actually going to be before the all-Democrat City Council before zoners get a shot at it.

Specifically the Economic and Community Development Committee will review the master plan change at its Feb. 20 meeting.

From the agenda, out Friday-

Proposed Amendment to the 2008 Master Plan of Conservation & Development Chapter 14 – Future Land Use Plan.

Brian Lockhart