Restaurateur David Harkness presented plans for the Oak Arbor Inn at the corner of Woodland Avenue and Route 26 last week — first, before the Ocean View Board of Adjustment (BOA) and then before the town’s Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission.
Harkness said he intended to pair upscale cuisine with white linen, crystal and specialty “boutique” wines in a 36-seat establishment.
The meetings ran back to back on April 21, and between them, the BOA and P&Z studied Harkness’ applications for more than three hours.
Several neighbors turned out to voice objections at the BOA, fostering a more comprehensive discussion of the project than otherwise might have been considered at that time.
Attorney David Weidman, representing the Oak Arbor Inn application, asked for three variances — (1) permission to enclose the front porch, (2) construction of a handicapped ramp and (3) additional parking toward the rear.
BOA Chair Dick Logue asked what modifications they intended to make to the front porch. “I think the house looks great just the way it is,” he said. Harkness said he would enclose the porch in glass, and continue the landscaping theme outside with hanging and potted plants inside that would be visible from the street.
There were no objections to the handicapped ramp, which intruded only slightly into the setback at any rate.
However, the additional parking to the rear was a sticking point. Harkness is planning for 36 seats (20-odd downstairs, up to 10 at a private table on the second floor).
The formula for parking is one space for every three patrons, plus one for each employee on the clock.
With five employees (including Harkness himself and friend John Brenan sharing chef’s duties), they would only have customer parking for 24 (eight spaces).
Weidman said they had a letter from neighboring property owner Roland Hoffman (he owns the parcel to the west, leased to Mary Ann’s Interiors) indicating Hoffman’s willingness to lease part of that parking lot for Oak Arbor Inn employees.
There would be little conflict, since the restaurant wouldn’t be opening until 4 p.m. (dinner only), as Harkness pointed out.
The BOA approved the first two variances, but deferred action on the parking for 30 days, expressing a preference that he should pursue the formal agreement with Hoffman.
Five neighbors used the meeting as an opportunity to voice various concerns. This restaurant would be very different from its commercial predecessors (a design studio, then a home furnishings shop) — there would be more traffic, delivery trucks on narrow Woodland Avenue, the possibility of noisy patrons leaving the restaurant late at night and more frequent trash pickups, they said.
Roxie Davis, a baker, said she had to get up for work in the wee hours, and suggested noise from mid-evening restaurant activity might disturb her rest. “I don’t need a bunch of rowdy people right across the street,” she stated.
Logue asked about garbage and associated odor, but Harkness assured him that any odor would seriously hurt business, especially considering the targeted upscale clientele, and he would be careful to double-bag, even use enzyme-based products if necessary.
“I’d like to add, to the neighbors — I’ve been in the hospitality industry for 15 years,” he said. “I want to bring a small, upstanding business into Ocean View, with as little impact as possible.”
He said he had no plans to modify the classic, plantation-style farmhouse or landscaping, and would take especial care to preserve the massive magnolia, oak and maple trees on the site.
Logue noted a sign on Woodland Avenue prohibiting truck traffic (the entrance to the site is on Woodland), but Weidman suggested the prohibition was for through traffic, not deliveries. Harkness said he planned to schedule those deliveries between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Most of the P&Z commission members had come in halfway through the BOA, and had overheard many details of the plan. Nevertheless, the applicants resubmitted the information noted above, and went over the plans for an addition that would accommodate the kitchen area.
Two of the neighbors (Charlie and Eve Schwarz) stuck around to get their objections into the P&Z record as well.
After some wrangling over what the town could approve with the parking issue still unresolved, the commission members voted to pass the site plan through preliminary and on to final approval, with the condition that Harkness obtain the parking agreement (and submit it to Town Solicitor Dennis Schrader for review and approval).
Both BOA and P&Z votes were unanimous.
April 21 marked Commission Member Jeanne Mueller’s last night on the job. Logue took a moment to praise her hard work, on the P&Z and also during charter review — the other commission members echoed that sentiment.