Victory for Patachou

Dateline: Thu 05 Nov 2009

When remonstrators went into the meeting of the Meridian Street Preservation Commission today -- that august body was once again hearing a petition regarding the expansion of Patachou restaurant at 49th and Penn -- opponents of the project had three goals:

1. No outdoor seating for Patachou and its companion restaurant, Napolese

2. No parallel parking on Pennsylvania Street

3. Compliance with the Americans with Disabilties Act

Oops. Turns out, none of that was really even relevant at this stage of the process. Game over, man.

After more than an hour of testimony from both sides, and a terse reminder from MSPC board member and former Meridian Street resident Alice Berger that "we can't unapprove (this project...) The first application is approved. They (Patachou and the developer Bryan Chandler) are offering to change the seating and parking..." it was clear which way the wind was blowing. The board voted 8-0 in favor of the petitioner, which was Patachou.

Frankly, it was obvious after the first person formally spoke at the hearing which way the vote would go; that speaker was Susan Dart, attorney for the MSPC, who explained at the meeting's start at 4 p.m. that "this commission has limited" powers..."we cannot grant a variance...all we can do is offer preapproval," which in fact it had done in June.

Still, remonstrators had missed that message....somehow. MK resident Gary Wright, the first remonstrator to speak, made an impassioned and yet very rational case against a project he felt had the potential for "high adverse impact" to the neighborhood. "We are not seeking to resist change...we do not fault the petitioners. The remonstrators are trying to benefit all, and we fear a significant long-term negative impact" to a busy restaurant at that corner, he noted.

That's when Berger informed him that the board can't undo what it had done.

Later, Wright apologized to the board, saying he wished he'd gotten involved earlier.

But to cut to the chase: I have absolutely no doubt that this deal is going to sail through down the pike. Nor do I have any doubt that the remonstrators have had an effect, tho not as great as they would like.

What is really sad and disturbing about the development is how bitterly it has divided a wonderful neighborhood. That theme was sounded on several occasions: "we have tried to come to terms" and failed etc.

Cameron Clark, the attorney who represented Patachou and the developer, talked about that aftermath on the parking lot afterwards; he regrets, he said, the level of animosity that exists between former friends and neighbors.

My view? I do not have a dog in this fight; I've attended remonstratots' meetings on behalf of children who live nearby and had concerns about the size of the restaurant, parking and the possibility of resulting crime. They are raising a child in M-K, and they hope to stay for a long time....besides that, I was fascinated to see how the processs would shake out. And, frankly, I have friends, good friends, on both sides of the fence.

Attorney Clark pointed out that there are still plenty of issues to resolve. The Board of Zoning Appeals has to hear the case, and the devil is in the details. But it seems obvious: Patachou and Chandler and Patachou owner Martha Hoover have prevailed.

The question lingers: will the two sides ever meet for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine at the new restaurant?












Tell The Truth [Member] said:

A very thoughtful post. Thanks.

The "zoning process" in this town has been broken for a long time. It's checkbook zoning.

There is an over-riding legal requirement for variances which many petitioners do not meet: they must, by statute, prove a hardship if they don't get the variance. In addition to all the other hurdles they must jump.

In some areas neighborhood groups work hand-in-hand with developers to try to get the best win-win. There are some smelly goats on both sides of these issues. Everyone knows the bad developers who don't keep promises and go the cheap route wherever possible.....but keep one thing in mind:

With few exceptions, remonstrators usually argue as volunteers, without expensive representation.

May their tribe multiply--sensibly.

2009-11-06 03:39:36

mknares [Member] said:

Legal Representation is the key word alluded to in last post and Remonstrators have a near impossible job without. Many cracks in the proceedings at the MSPC Hearing thursday . At the core was the reason the Continuance was requested and awarded in the first place to Ed Potts,MKNA President.That Continuance was an opportunity for MKNA to finally comply with the bylaws that were broken.The statement dispatched under oath did not reflect the truth of the followthru.In fact just the opposite- The Remonstrators responded to the Continuance by initiating and arranging a meeting with all parties involved only to be notified at the last minute by Ed Potts that it was cancelled. An opportunity for sharing and mediating was lost. All that came from a 2 week continuance was an opportunity for MKNA to find legal cover for their sins as it was void of any action to mediate or finally allow MKNA residents to have a voice.

2009-11-07 16:53:10

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