Feb 11, 2014 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
The half-dozen or so neighbors of Eric Burrell’s building at 4 Chenango St. — and an attorney that was representing one of them — all agreed that the know and like Burrell, Alicyn Hart and Hart’s local restaurant Circa. And yet they all still have serious concerns about the possibility of Burrell expanding his Chenango Street building to house Circa’s new location.
The comments, made during the Feb. 3 village board meeting, focused on potential light, noise, odor and traffic pollution from the restaurant, as well as a collective concern over what could “come next” in the space if and when Circa is no longer there.
“A lot of us have a lot of concerns,” said Gayonne MacDonald, who lives on Mill Street. “I get nervous with zone changes and moving things off the main street. What if main street dies? … I just see us pulling away these chinks in Cazenovia.”
Circa has been located at 76 Albany St. for the past eight years, but Hart, who leases the 1,200-square-foot space, said she and her landlord could not agree on a new lease agreement so she will move her restaurant to another location by the end of May.
Last month, Hart and Leanne Burrell, who owns the office building at 4 Chenango St. with her husband, appeared before the village board proposing the idea that the Burrells would build either a two-level, 2,500 square-foot addition to the back of the building or a two-story, 2,500 square-foot freestanding building at the back of the parking lot. The first floor space would be used by Hart for her restaurant while the second floor would be used for office space. Both levels would have patios, the one on the first floor would be outdoor seating for Circa.
At their initial January presentation, Hart and Burrell were told they would need to request a zone change to have a restaurant on the property, since it is currently zoned as an R-10 Residential District. Mayor Kurt Wheeler and Village Attorney Jim Stokes said a planned development (PD) zone seems like the most logical zone change to make.
Such a zone change would have to be considered and approved by the village board to be allowed, while the actual building addition or construction would have to be reviewed and approved by the village planning board, Stokes said.
In January, Hart said she is moving her restaurant simply because she must, and she has no plans to enlarge or change her business plan in any way, although she likes the idea of better parking and outdoor seating as envisioned by the Burrells and not currently available to her on Albany Street.
“I have no intention of changing my hours of operation or philosophy of how I do business or the character of my business,” Hart reiterated on Feb. 3. “I’m simply looking for a change of location to conduct my business.”
Eric Burrell told the board that he has spoken with the neighbors and he already plans to increase the vegetative barrier between their two properties to help block noise, and that he will certainly construct and operate the building in line with all village laws and ordinances. He said the waterfall in Chittenango Creek next to his property also creates a lot of white noise that would block out most any noise from his property as well.
He said all lights on the property will be dark sky compliant, and all public entry and exit to the parking lot and the building would be on the creek side and therefore away from the nearest neighboring homes.
The neighbors who spoke during the meeting all said they know and like the Burrells and Hart, but they still feel concerned about the noise, light, odors and traffic issues that could come to their residential neighborhood by the addition of a restaurant.
“I worry about what the next step will be,” said neighbor Wallace MacDonald, who lives on Mill Street. “After the zone change, the next tenant could operate a restaurant wholly different than Circa.”
Paul Curtin, a local attorney retained by Helen Stacy, the closest neighbor to Burrell’s building, said Mitchell was concerned about all the possible ways the restaurant could impact her quality of life. “We all support progress and are in support of Circa, but if they move we have some concerns we would like addressed,” Curtin said.
Neighbor Dick Mitchell said he was especially concerned about lights and noise on weekends, and does not want Circa to have live outdoor music the way the Brae Loch Inn does. Neighbor Sherry Abbot said her concern was the notion of Burrell expanding his building with the potential decline in occupancy that could occur over time and the “future deterioration” that could mean for the neighborhood.
Burrell, who not only owns the building at 4 Chenango St. but is also the largest tenant in the building, said he is “in business to keep this building full of people” and if the restaurant closes he would fill the space with business tenants – which make him more money anyway. He added that he and Hart have agreed on a 10-year lease should the project come to fruition.
Hart responded to the neighbors’ concerns by saying that light, noise and odors have never been a problem – she has never had one complaint – during her eight years on Albany Street, and that includes the tenants who live in the space above her restaurant and those in the building next door.
“I understand these concerns. We’ve complied with them for the past eight years on Albany Street,” she said.
Wheeler reminded everyone in attendance that the meeting was only the first step in lengthy approval process for the proposed project, and the public will have ample time to receive information and give input on this as it moves through the village board and the planning board for various necessary approvals.
Wheeler then made a motion to refer the Burrell/Hart proposal to the village planning board for its recommendation on whether or not the village board should approve a zone change for the 4 Chenango St. property. The motion was unanimously approved.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.