Do your eyes tell you it's a a fancy, European-style atrium or a gigantic, wrought-iron birdcage?

One way or the other, does it fit along Main Street, right across from the Village Green?

It depends whom you ask.

For the past few weeks, a number of New Milford residents have been both vociferous and literary about whether they like or dislike the Zoning Commission-approved addition to Tivoli Restaurant, located on the southeastern corner of Main Street and the Green.

The objections come almost five months after the 12-by-18-foot structure earned unanimous approval for location next to the restaurant's maroon-canvas-covered, outdoor dining area adjacent to its newly redesigned parking lot.

"We did get a significant number of phone calls and emails, more than I've seen on any other project since I've been here (for six years)," said zoning enforcement officer Laura Regan.

There has been fallout since the structure arrived just before Veterans Day.

It's been a hot topic in letters to The Spectrum, on websites, on Facebook and in town hall.

A few folks on both sides of the issue sounded off to zoners at a Nov. 22 commission meeting.

Some of those against the new structure referred to it as a "birdcage" and said it might be appropriate in Italy but not along a New England green.

Resident Laraine Selivonchik told the commission the "birdcage" does not complement the downtown's historic architecture. Rather, she said, it is "an eyesore," according to meeting minutes.

Bridge Street merchant Stephen Szilagyi testified, however, the atrium/gazebo beats the "dirt lot" that preceded it.

Patricia Greenspan, a longtime member of the New Milford Trust for Historic Preservation, said it is a "very complementary addition" to a corner that, over a 25-year span, had fallen into decay.

For about 70 years, the corner sported a gas station.

In the past, Ms. Regan said, efforts were made to create architectural regulations for the Green, but they had always failed.

Commission Chairman Bill Taylor said the downtown is a conglomeration of architecture, ranging from renovated historic buildings dating back to the 1700s to modern structures.

Some locals have long considered the post office, built during the mid-20th century as a grocery store, an ugly building, he said.

Defenders of Tivoli's structure hope people will be patient.

"The owner and I apologize for the way the structure looks now, but it's not finished," said Barbara Reeve, the restaurant's general manager.

When completed next spring, the atrium, which now features a decorated Christmas tree, will contain four small tables, Ms. Reeve said.

It will be covered with a canopy that matches the one over the existing dining area and will have a stone base, which is now under construction, she added.

The entire area will be landscaped with trees that will mask the atrium from both Bridge Street and Main Street.

"Give us a chance," Ms. Reeve concluded. "Once finished, it's going to be an absolutely beautiful addition to the Green."

"Give us a chance. Once finished, it's going to be an absolutely beautiful addition to the Green."

Barbara Reeve

Tivoli general manager