Legal issues slow pizzeria opening

Third Place Pizzeria is a work in progress on Main Street. Photo by Catherine Twing

The anticipation for a new dining option in Castleton may be prolonged by a few months, and possibly into the next school year, due to a new lawsuit filed against the owner of the proposed Third Place Pizzeria.

The new restaurant, which was supposed to be up and running by now, has halted its construction because of an appeal made against the building permit. Andrew Breting, owner of the business, said that local business owner John Rehlen made the appeal.

Community members are given a 30-day appeal window when a building permit is issued in the town of Castleton. Breting was served with appeal papers just days before the window closed.

“Last Monday, I was informed that my permit was being appealed by Rehlen through his lawyers to go against our hours of operation,” said Breting on April 14. This means that Breting must now hire a lawyer and attend a state level hearing through the Environmental Division Court to settle the dispute, he said.

According to Rehlen, the appeal has nothing to do with the hours of operation and is more of a zoning issue.

For 44 years, Rehlen has used the space in the lot between the Lee Lodge and The Village Store for parking and deliveries. Now that construction has begun at Third Place, he said the blockades in the parking lot are hindering his business.

“As a result of that, we have very unfortunately had to bring suit against the Lodge, Breting and the construction company that's doing the work,” said Rehlen. “It’s a public right of way… I don’t mean Andrew any ill will. I’m not trying to stop him from opening, and I think he would be a good addition to the downtown.”

Professor Jessica Cowden has been working with Breting for months to develop a trademark for Third Place, and is astonished that the project is being put on hold due to legal action.

According to Cowden, recruiting is a big issue for the university when it comes to food options, and she said she doesn’t believe it’s safe or fair for students to have to travel outside of town in order to grab a late-night bite to eat.

“My frustration with this entire situation is that the families of Castleton are being deprived of something that they want,” said Cowden. “It’s not personal, but it’s a really unfortunate situation that could have been avoided.”

Taylor Palmer, a student at Castleton, is disappointed to hear that Third Place may not be opening during this school year, and believes the lawsuit is detrimental to the town as a whole.

“I think that everyone was looking forward to the new restaurant being opened by a former Castleton student. It's sad that the parking space is such a huge deal,” said Palmer. “I don't think that it should have led to a lawsuit against him.”

Breting is not giving up faith though, saying this is just a “roadblock,” and wants everyone to know it will not stop him in any way.

“It’s unfortunate, but we’re keeping a good attitude and staying positive about it,” he said.

No hearing date has been set at this time. 

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