Ocean View scrutinizes Kool Bean cafe

The recent arrival of a new 8- by 10-foot refrigerator at the Kool Bean café proved perhaps the most complex application before the Ocean View Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission at the Oct. 20 P&Z meeting. Other applications involved:

• Side-by-side projects on Town Road, James Kyger’s professional offices and John Roberts’ fitness center received final site plan approval with relatively little fuss or muss.

• George Keen’s application for subdivision (2 acres into four lots, at 2 Central Ave.) was more complicated. However, Charlie McMullen (administrative official, Department of Public Works supervisor) came up with a solution to setback requirements on a problematic corner lot, and the plan was approved as a preliminary.

• Dr. Semaan Abboud moved one step closer to realizing plans for business expansion (from Family Health of Bethany, across from the National Guard training site). P&Z Chair Dick Logue did his best to encourage the preservation of some deciduous trees at 72 Atlantic Ave. and perhaps fewer than he would have liked will remain, but the site plan for a one-story, 4,000-square-foot medial office building (on about a half-acre) received preliminary approval.

• And commission members knocked Ralph Picard’s project from nine townhouses on a little less than two acres (32 Atlantic Ave.) down to eight townhouses. However, everything else seemed in order and Land Tech’s Jeff Clark had only to formally submit copies of the plan as revised, and pay the $850 fee for site plan review, en route preliminary approval next month.

But the fate of Kool Bean’s refrigerator seemed less certain.

“In my humble opinion, it’s an accessory structure that doesn’t alter or enlarge the business,” attorney Susan Mitchell stated (representing the property owners, Miranda & Hardt).

As a first issue, someone should have submitted for a new site plan review, and received approval from the P&Z, before installing the refrigerator, McMullen pointed out.

He said he’d been unsure at first, but called Wilson, Halbrook & Bayard (legal firm for the town) and received confirmation.

The refrigerator is a permitted accessory structure. However, the town’s legal advisor had confirmed, in their judgment, that the addition of the refrigerator did enlarge the amount of square footage used for General Business (GB) on the site, and so required a new site plan approval from the P&Z.

Residential property owners could still build sheds, etc., without paying the $850 fee and submitting nine sets of plans to the P&Z, Susan Frederick (the town’s planning consultant) later pointed out. There are guidelines, and property owners still need a building permit, but the more stringent rules applied only to commercial uses, she said.

However, Frederick said her research into the matter had generated questions outside the refrigerator issue.

There were differences between the final site plan for Coastal Plaza, as the P&Z had approved it back in October 2004, and the more up-to-the-minute plan plus refrigerator.

“The only reason I brought this up, is because I don’t see a cooler on their (original) plan,” Frederick said. To her, it suggested something might have changed, leading the proprietors to place the refrigerator outside, rather than inside, the existing building.

“The interior floor plan has not changed,” Mitchell said. “The walls haven’t changed, the kitchen hasn’t moved.”

However, Frederick suggested the coffee shop may have placed the refrigerator outside to accommodate additional seating inside. If they’d increased seating, the owners would need to add parking spaces to accommodate the additional patrons, she pointed out.

Mitchell reminded everyone they’d gathered to consider preliminary site plan approval for the installation of a refrigerator, and were wandering off track.

Town Solicitor Dennis Schrader agreed, but said the other issues had come up as a result of the application, incidentally.

“As a result, it’s come into question whether the restaurant has been reconfigured, and whether the town needs (McMullen) to go out and count tables, see if they still have enough parking,” he said.

Savannah’s Landing resident Susan White suggested the town should have realized what was going on before things reached this point.

“It seems like someone should have caught on by now,” she said.

McMullen said the town had approved all of the renovations and enclosure of the front porch. But as far as tables and chairs at a restaurant, he wouldn’t typically check on such things unless a resident filed a complaint — “I’m not a health inspector,” McMullen stated. “I don’t inspect restaurants on a regular basis.”

However, Logue directed him to do just that, and he visited Kool Bean the very next day (Oct. 21).

He found there were too many seats for the parking provided on the property, and advised employees they’d have to close the front porch. Site plan review for the refrigerator itself, installed back in June, remains a matter for some future P&Z meeting.

In other business, commission members forwarded their unanimous approval to council for an ordinance aligning residential and General Business (GB) district bulk and parking regulations.

As commission members have pointed out, commercial uses in the GB district necessitate a 15-foot landscaped buffer for adjacent residences (in this case, one step away either to the north or south). Presently, anyone wishing to build residential along Route 26 would be governed by residential bulk and parking regulations, but there’s no provision for that buffer under residential.

Also, residential districts carry a 42-foot height restriction — GB will hold all new construction along Route 26 to 35 feet or less.