What once was old is new again, but still kind of old.
Small-scale beer making is just the latest example of our new taste for medieval craft-guild ventures like artisan bread-making, silver-smithing, hand tailoring, and leather-work — small businesses that flourish in shops across Homewood. Except that there weren’t cars in those medieval villages of yore. So tonight’s split vote to recommend rezoning a building on Central Avenue for a craft brewery and taproom stumbled for a long while on the question of where business owner Joe Pilleteri would find an estimated 80 additional parking spots in the already congested Little Donkey/Octane parking area. Ultimately, however, only commissioner Mark Woods voted against the recommendation, presumably because he didn’t accept Mr. Pilleteri’s arguments that he would “find” the spots, or hire a valet service, or lease the dog veterinarian’s parking area at night, or shuttle in customers on a trolley, or reduce his future taproom size to match the required parking.
The approval came over the objections of three nearby business owners who complained strenuously of inadequate parking. Mr. Riddle reminded the applicant that the vote was advisory, with the final decision for rezoning resting in the hands of the City Council, which would hold its own public hearing.
Members present: Fred Azbik, Mike Brandt, Billy Higginbotham, chairman, James Riddle, Fred Hawkins and Mark Woods.
Members absent: James Ponseti, Battalion Chief Nickolas Hill, and Jeffery Foster.
Staff attendance: Donna Bridges, commission secretary; Greg Cobb, manager, Engineering, Planning & Zoning Department; and Vanessa McGrath, engineer, Engineering, Planning and Zoning Department.
Audience attendance: 17
Carried over October 2, 2014, minutes.
Approved 5-1 to recommend a “conditional” rezoning for a craft brewery, bottling and canning plant on Central Avenue: The commission voted to recommend rezoning the 11,000-square-foot former A&P Food Store at 2821 Central Avenue from C-4 to M-1, manufacturing, on condition that it would be used solely for the operation of the proposed brewery, taproom and bottling and canning operation. If such operations ceased, the property would revert automatically to the C-4 zoning, according to the recommendation passed.
Commission discussion and three public objectors focused solely on the foreseeable parking problems, despite arguments by Mr. Pilleteri and his architect that the rezoning itself didn’t require a plan for a particular business configuration, which hadn’t yet been decided.
The location includes buildings that house the Little Donkey, Octane, Steel City Pops, a fitness center, shoe repair store and a printing operation run by property owner Ken Williams in the former grocery store. The available parking includes 128 spaces, or more than the 107 spaces required for the combined needs of all the businesses operating under C-4. The proposed brewery, with a taproom estimated at 4,000 square feet, would require 2 spaces per each 100 sf of seating area, or 80 parking spots under C-4 zoning. However, Mr. Pilleteri said he needed the rezoning to allow him to bottle the beer on site–the second most important ingredient to running a profitable brewery (the first is selling on premises with a tapper). M-1 zoning requires only half the parking requirement of C-4, or 40 spaces in the given scenario.
Speaking in opposition: Insurance business owner Joe Fuller objected most strenuously to the project, saying customers to the Little Donkey restaurant parked in his Crescent Avenue business and left the lot filthy and cluttered every night. He noted that “the city took down 300 trees and created a gravel parking lot for the Little Donkey,” referring to the 60 additional spaces created across Reese Street. He said it was the commission’s duty to the people to see that businesses had adequate parking.
- An architect whose business was on 2908 Crescent Avenue also objected, citing his submitted written objections and adding that trucks blocked access to his business.
- A representative from a business at 2909 Crescent Avenue echoed the same complaint, saying she was “very opposed.”
Speaking in favor: David Siegel of Twin Construction at 2907 Central Avenue, who was present for the next case, spoke briefly in favor of the development’s positive impact to the area.
Mr. Williams, as landlord, commented that he had no objection unless the rezoning would adversely affect his other tenants, which he was assured it wouldn’t.
In the following discussion, Ms. McGrath said Mr. Pilleteri could actually open a brewery and taproom under the current zoning without adding any additional parking, because the zoning based on the space inside the building as opposed to its use. (The expansion of GianMarco’s restaurant within its current building on Broadway, for example, has created additional parking problems but not zoning problems, since the space inside the building remained unchanged, she said.)
Although commissioners all expressed concern over the parking, they moved to vote confident in Mr. Pilleteri’s promises to solve the problem when the time came to open for business.
Voting no: Mr. Woods voted no without further explanation.
Reduced Cobb Street building plan from four houses to three: A plan to squeeze four two-story houses on a shallow lot across the street from Hall-Kent Elementary was amended to redraw the parcel into three lots instead. David Siegel of Twin Construction made the presentation, with one neighbor from Kent Drive speaking in favor. The earlier plan to put four houses on the parcel drew a storm of protest from neighbors and from a ranking school board employee, who was concerned about school carpool congestion and student safety. The amendment to the Final Development Plan for 816 Cobb Street and the resurvey of the parcel was approved unanimously in two separate votes.
Conditionally approved a lot resurvey to allow for sewer access: The commission, with Mr. Woods absent from the vote, gave conditional approval to a homeowner at 1102 Saulter Road to redraw a 10-foot x 43-foot strip of one lot to become part of the adjacent lot in order to provide access to an underground sewer line. The change in the lot size will require a Board of Zoning Adjustments variance approval on Thursday. For that reason, the homeowner submitted only a sketch of the plan and the commission conditioned its approval on formal drawings being submitted following a positive decision from the BZA.