Archive | April, 2011

DPD releases draft of VPC permit

29 Apr

CHS today published the draft of the conditions The Department of Planning and Development (DPD) is considering in response to VPC’s application to change the non-conforming use.

The conditions are being imposed by the City.

Every resident has exactly the same power: to make our needs known to DPD through the public process. Every resident was invited to submit letters, to attend the public meeting, and to continue discussions with DPD as they saw fit. As a result of everyone’s input, DPD is making its decision.

  • DPD allowed VPC to operate throughout the entirety of the decision-making process.
  • DPD was within their rights to shut it down. They did not.
  • VP Neighbors never pressed them to.
  • The neighborhood has never had to live without VPC and never has to.

At the public meeting, Ericka stated more than once that she accepts the conditions laid out by the City.

  • She said she will stay profitable under these conditions and that she had no intention to close.
  • She is willing to work with the neighborhood to address our concerns.
  • We are grateful to her for the opportunity to move forward.

Those who wish to support the cafe’s clear efforts to make this right need to follow Ericka’s example.

If those who do make themselves know to us — through this blog, our blog, or in person — we will thank you, as well.


Public Meeting Redux

25 Apr

This evening, an open public meeting took place at Stevens Elementary School to discuss Volunteer Park Café’s application to change the land-use of the space it rents (the first floor and one of the second floor residential units of 1501 17th Ave. E) from ‘grocery’ (and in the case of the upstairs, ‘residential’) to ‘restaurant.’

The meeting was well attended and remarkably civil. We thank everyone who attended for sharing their views concisely and with respect. We hope neighbors can continue the discussion in the same successful vein.

The meeting began with a brief recap of the situation by Scott Kemp, the planner from The Department of Planning & Development (DPD) assigned to this case. After Mr. Kemp spoke, representatives from VPC and VP Neighbors spoke, primarily reaffirming our commitment to working together and in conjunction with DPD. Mr. Kemp then opened the meeting for comments.

By and large, Mr. Kemp simply allowed residents to speak. Occasionally, he would step in to explain points of law or to clarify a question about the process required to change one non-conforming use to another.

A specific point addressed by Mr. Kemp seemed to clarify greatly the issue of the “agreement.” In effect here are two “agreements”:

  1. The private agreement currently in process between three entities: the building’s owner, the resident who filed the initial complaint with DPD, and VPC itself; and
  2. The public decision by DPD regarding the request for the change of nonconforming use.

Mr. Kempt clarified that the public decision is just that: a matter of public record, available to any resident who requests it. The private agreement is between the parties involved.

Without giving a date or time frame, Mr. Kemp stated that he would soon announce  the DPD’s decision regarding the land-use change.

We would like to acknowledge that we heard a number of residents register concern that they did not feel invited into VP Neighbors.

  • We invite any resident to contact us with suggestions as to how we can address your concerns.
  • Please contact individual members of VPN or through the contact information listed on this site.

In closing, we would like to reiterate our message from last night. While the currently permitted use of the building is as a grocery, Volunteer Park Neighbors has always stated the current best use can be as a restaurant with limits that make sense for our residential neighborhood.

Members of VPN remain committed to working with Volunteer Park Café towards an agreement that would allow VPN to support VPC’s restaurant permit application, while also protecting the character of our neighborhood now, and in the future.

44.3% oppose VPC’s request to change land-use to restaurant; also oppose patio.

18 Apr

From Sept. 30th through Oct. 27th, 2010, The Department of Planning & Development (DPD) held a public comment period in response to VPC’s application to change their land-use (currently ‘grocery’) to allow for a restaurant. During this period, we canvassed for neighborhood sentiment. 

  • We found that 44.3% of the residents we were able to assess opposed VPC’s request.
  • This same 44.3% stated an objection to the use of VPC’s back patio for commercial purposes.

Our canvassing was separate from the DPD’s comment period. Many residents took part in both.

Let us be the first to say that the results knocked us backward.

From the get-go, the media portrayed us as a single, cranky neighbor who was trying to shut down VPC. Later, VPC’s Web page called us “a small (but vocal!!) minority.” Though VPC had dropped the “trying to shut down,” that was the message which continued to wrongly—and painfully—define the debate.

Going door-to-door, we felt opinion shifting.

  • We did not, however, expect to find that the largest single opinion would align with ours.
  • We recognize that our results reveal a surprising sea change in neighborhood opinion.

Which is not to say that the restaurant finds itself without support. A significant proportion of those whose position we were able to assess—45.6%—favored VPC’s land-use change, compared to 44.3% against.

VPC’s support came in degrees:

  • 12% favored ‘restaurant’ change and patio use; and
  • 33.6% favored ‘restaurant’ but not patio, or said they did not yet understand enough about the patio use to state an opinion.

Finally, 10.1% remained undecided about the issue as a whole.

Primary objection is to patio use

Concern over VPC’s patio expansion originally lead the group now known as VP Neighbors to file a complaint with DPD. In 2010, the restaurant had been operating outside their legal zoning for more than three years. (In May, 2010, DPD found VPC in violation.)

We have always been willing to live with and to enjoy a legally compliant 40-seat restaurant—despite impacts involving noise, traffic, parking, cooking odors, garbage overflows and more.

We are not willing to live with the possibility of 30 or  more seats on a patio or use of the second floor.

  • The ensuing impacts on our lives and on our families would be too great.
  • For this reason, we ask VPC and the property owner to sign a legal document that would clearly limit commercial use to the first floor of the building.
  • If they can do so, we can support the legalization of a reasonably sized restaurant from which the whole community can benefit forever.

Beyond any concern we have about VPC, we are concerned that any future owner or renter could use the patio without permitting. Maybe the City would do some-thing, maybe not. The neighbors don’t want to find out.