Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Evolution of a Plan and the Planning Board

Back in April 2012, the Planning Board--then still a Planning Commission--gave unanimous approval to a plan to turn 347 Warren Street into an outdoor food court and beer & wine garden. The decision met with applause from the folks who had gathered at City Hall that night.

As it turned out, the reality never quite rose to the level promised by the rendering, much to the consternation of the members of the regulatory board that had given its approval.

On Wednesday night, Michael Davis, the owner of 347 Warren Street, and Brian Herman, his attorney, were back before the Planning Board, this time seeking approval for the "redistribution" of elements of the plan. Originally the food trucks, with the exception of what was then Tortillaville, were at the back of the lot. Now the proposal, owing to the requirements of the State Liquor Authority, is to move all the food trucks to the front of the lot and to create an enclosed outdoor seating area for the bar, which will now be a restaurant and bar, at the back of the lot.

The new plan raised lots of concerns for members of the Planning Board, who seemed to feel that they had been the victims of some kind of bait and switch. Although Davis assured them that he wanted to "adhere to whatever the rules are governing restaurants with outdoor seating," and Herman explained that they were "blazing new territory and trying to get this right," the Planning Board worried about the impact on the neighborhood and stewed about previous plans that had not been adhered to. By the end of the meeting though, the Planning Board's concerns had been refined to four:
  • Lighting--Would the proposed lighting be sufficient for safety but not so much as to be nuisance in the neighbor?
  • Ventilation--Would the exhaust fans required for the kitchen servicing the restaurant, which had not existed in the original plan, present a noise and/or odor problem in the neighborhood?
  • Hours of operation
  • Capacity for outdoor seating area
The Planning Board expects the applicant will provide the information to allay their concerns at their next meeting, which takes place on June 10. At that meeting, they will likely schedule a public hearing to receive the community's comments about the proposed redistribution.

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