Sports Page Cafe owner Keith Jewell is waiting to hear if he will have to make major changes to the landscaping and parking at his Lanesville Road establishment in New Milford.

Mr. Jewell applied to the Zoning Commission to have the status of his cafe changed to a Class III Restaurant, which would allow him to have live music.

The application apparently opened a hornet's nest of complaints from neighbors and the discovery that some $60,000 worth of work he had done on the property five years ago had never been approved by the Zoning Commission.

Mr. Jewell had thought all permits were in place for the paving and drainage he had done to the parking lot, he said. He explained he had gone through other town departments at the time.

Zoners are in a quandary about whether they can approve the restaurant class change on a business that is not in compliance with zoning regulations.

They kept the Dec. 15 public hearing open on Mr. Jewell's request so the commission's attorney, Randall DiBella, could review the situation.

"We're not considering a change in use," said zoner Bill Taylor. "I don't think we have to consider all aspects of zoning compliance going back."

Fellow zoner Sharon Ward agreed.

However, commission chairman Eleanor Florio and Zoning Enforcement Officer Laura Regan want confirmation from Mr. DiBella that an approval would be allowed.

At the Nov. 17 session of the public hearing, neighbors of the cafe had presented a petition signed by 25 Lanesville Road residents alleging problems that existed before, when the business was known as Bullwinkle's, and have continued since Mr. Jewell bought the business six years ago.

The petition cites "excessive noise late into the night," "inappropriate language from patrons gathered on the front porch" and drug paraphernalia littering the parking area.

Several neighbors also spoke at the Nov. 17 hearing against the Class III restaurant change.

Patrons and staff of the cafe spoke Dec. 15 in defense of the business, saying Mr. Jewell "runs a tight ship" and that any suggestion of drug use at the establishment is unfounded.

"What was said about drugs and drug paraphernalia is not true," said bartender Lisanne Swim. "Keith runs a tight ship. He doesn't allow underage drinking or drugs. I'm a mother. I wouldn't work some place where that was allowed. I'm strict about running the bar. All of us are. We sponsor kids sports teams and support the community."

To a complaint by neighbor Alan Gereg Tuesday that a semi-truck had been running in the parking lot near his house late at night recently, Mr. Jewell responded it had been a National Guard truck that the cafe staff and patrons were filling for Toys for Tots.