Sunday, October 16, 2005

LPDS, ABH, yada yada yada

The ABH gets all long-winded about La Puerta del Sol today. It’s a good piece, and Blake has obviously done the research on this one. Among the points Blake makes:

  • Opposition to LPDS comes mostly from the Cedar Creek folks, led by States McCarter. (“Opposition to the mixed-use development is largely centered in the Cedar Creek Civic Association, which represents the massive 650-home subdivision that's traditionally the apex of power on the eastside. Eighth District Commissioner States McCarter got his start in politics there, and like many other Cedar Creek residents, sees the rezoning battle as just one step in the struggle to keep businesses from encroaching into residential areas.”)

  • The C-N rezoning does not allow strip malls, which eliminates one bit of misinformation that has been making the anti-LPDS rounds lately. (“…Rubio now wants it once again rezoned from commercial-office, which allows offices and small retail shops, to commercial-neighborhood, which allows larger stores and restaurants, but not strip malls. The two types of zoning are kissing cousins.”

  • The LPDS proposal is much more in line with the existing C-O zoning than it is in opposition to it. Note however, that we also got it wrong as far as zoning changes in our post about the issue. We’ll assume that Blake (who actually gets paid for talking about this sort of thing) has the more accurate research on this. (“’A restaurant is really the only difference’ between commercial-office and commercial-neighborhood, Athens-Clarke planner Rick Cowick said. ‘The standards are pretty much the same.’")

  • LPDS is consistent with the ACC Land Use Plan. (“Although La Puerta del Sol would require a rezoning, it's consistent with the county's future land-use map, a plan for future development that guides local officials in zoning decisions. Clarke County residents and local officials decided in 2000 to designate Cedar Shoals Drive as ‘Main Street Business,’ a category that can include stores, offices and restaurants with residences above them, and encourages mixed-use and pedestrian-friendly developments. ‘We feel like it was compatible,’ Cowick said.

  • The opposition to LPDS is overrated by McCarter and others, and is mostly limited to two subdivisions. (“Rubio's support, though, seems to be getting stronger, or at least louder. Despite McCarter's claim that 90 percent to 95 percent of people in his district oppose the rezoning, La Puerta del Sol appears to have substantial support, especially among younger residents and people outside the Cedar Creek and Spring Lake subdivisions.”)

  • States McCarter can be something of a bully. (“Rubio tried to start a petition of his own to match the 700 signatures gathered by about 20 opponents in Cedar Creek, but was told by McCarter not to bother unless the signatures came from Cedar Shoals Drive residents, he said. ‘I could have got a lot of signatures from people who came into Caliente (Cab, his now-closed Tallassee Road restaurant),’ Rubio said. ‘I was getting lots of signatures in the beginning. But (McCarter) told me it didn't count, that anyone could come in and sign it.’

  • The petition used by McCarter and the Cedar Creek Homeowner’s Association is also somewhat suspect. (“The Cedar Creek petition, though, has also drawn suspicion. Some eastsiders who signed the petition told the Athens-Clarke Commission last week that they were duped into thinking the restaurant was going to be a nightclub, and actually support the project.”)
And there you have it.



monticello_pres said...

I'm sure Blake has spent more time on this than he would prefer. Me, too.

But enough of one person saying this or one person saying that. The bottom line is that a petition of opposition for the rezoning of the current-Cofers site on Cedar Shoals Drive is nearing (if it has not surpassed) 1000 signatures. All signatures are from residents in Cedar Creek, Springlake, Tivoli, Green Acres, Morningside Assisted Living Home, and other east side/CSD corridor area residents. It has garnered this much support because the rezoning of this location, previously PLC (C-O) then C-O (PD) to allow the Cofers greenhouse, to C-N is not desired by those living and paying property taxes in the area.

There is just too much space vacant and available already zoned C-N. There are also many tracts under development that are zoned C-N. The rezone of this site is simply not necessary except for the efforts of Stuart Cofer and Ken Beall (who is reportedly representing both the buyer and the seller in this transaction) to sell this property. It's remainings are the final pieces of the Cofers' failed enterprise.

Based on the "thanks" that Stuart Cofer has provided for having our support in his previous rezone, and based on the ridiculous mire that Cedar Pointe has created at the front entrance of CCCA (another rezone supported by the neighborhoods in the area), not to mention the struggles of Ansonborough and Tower Place (across from Hillsman Middle), I really cannot blame those who have some emotional scars towards developers promising so much to get a rezone passed. (Again, I cannot condone the use of bullying or making any false statements, but having those emotional scars is understandable).

While I have not been the most active of participants in the petition efforts, I have been privy to many discussions. And there has never been any hint of misleading persons or a desire to confuse people into signing. And this is the first time the word "nightclub" has come into any discussion that I am aware of. Blake even quotes the petition - and it clearly explains that the rezoning will allow a restaurant serving alcohol and having live music on site. That is accurate in every sense of every plan presented by the LPDS group.

As for the mention of CCCA's majority, I think it is obvious that any support or opposition regarding any issue on the east side (including LPDS, the defeated proposal to 3-lane GSR, the positive workings with Frank Bishop and the redevelopers of Georgetown Shopping Center, the developers of Cedar Pointe, etc.) will include a majority in Cedar Creek. This is the largest subdivision in the county - much less in this area.

I have said before that I cannot condone the isolated bullying approach that one (or a few) have taken towards those in the minority who disagree. This is inappropriate to any discussion and has certainly hurt the credibility of the opposition's efforts. I am sure that while States remains in office, the effectiveness of the CCCA could well be in jeopardy on any issue. That is unfortunate.

But I will personally celebrate the arrival of sunrise 11/2/05. This has been a ridiculous process made complicated by those in LPDS who have the sympathy of the ABH and many patrons who do not live on the east side. These folks will only encounter the issues created by this property for their 1 or 2 hour visitation - we will have its consequences 24/7.

Thank you, again, to this site for presenting a fair assessment of the issues and providing a place for both voices. While your support of LPDS is obvious, your acknowledging of our concerns and your providing a forum for our debate is refreshing.

Publius said...

"I'm sure Blake has spent more time on this than he would prefer. Me, too."

I think I speak for the entire crack editorial staff when I agree wholeheartedly. I can say (pardon the self-promotion here) that when we kicked this little blog off, we had no idea that this would be our big issue thus far. And, though we are admitedly partisan on this one, we hope that, in addition to the political snarking we engage in, we cn make this a place where proponents of any side of any issue are welcome to spin to their heart's content. As metnioned earlier, we like spin, and we like seeing it done well.

But enough with the making nice, according to Blake, and others on both sides of the issue, we're supposed to be at each other's throats, right? Fair enough, on with the show...

Petitions, petitions, petitions. 1000 signatures is a remarkable goal, but also note that the validity of some of those signatures, and the credibility of the petitioning process has been questioned. I believe that the folks who imply that they were mislead by the poll are a very small minority, but nonetheless it is what it is. More interesting though is a legitimate point of contention between us: what role should folks who don't live nearby play in deciding this?

Obviously, you believe that people in Boulevard, Five Points, etc shouldn't have much, if any, say in how the east side does its zoning business, but I disagree. You make a good point that if I (I live in town) head over to LPDS, I only have to deal with it for an hour or two, whereas you'll have it 24/7. But I also think (as I've mentioned ad nauseam) that the negative impact has been greatly overstated by the opposition. For my money, you also get to have a really well-run, successful, unique local business nearby, and what I think will end up being not only a model of how to do multi-use the right way, but a model neighbor. And just because I live in town doesn't make my voice any less valid (obviously not, since I have the world's best bully pulpit right here at AP) But everyone, regardless of where they live has a stake in this now, because its gotten bigger than a zoning issue. It's about the future of our community as a whole, about how our Commission chooses to represent us and our local business owners, and about the future of land use in ACC.

As far as Ken Beall and Stu Cofer, I don't know. My impression is this, and I'm backed up by the information coming from LPDS, of course. This is an appropriate place for LPDS, other vacant space notwithstanding. The situation at this point, ludicrous as it seems is akin to you finding the perfect parcel of land on which to build a home. It's got everything you wanted, maybe a creek, nice old growth hardwoods, great schools nearby, whatever is on your personal wishlist. You put in a bid on the property, but the homeowners association raises a fuss because your dream home that you've always wanted to build happens to be Greek Revival, and the homeowners association only likes Gothic and Tudor. (I'm not an architecture student, so bear with me on the tortured metaphor) Now there may be acres and acres of other land available for you, and it might even be cheaper, but it isn't the land you've always dreamed of. That's how it is with this. Sure, Bruno could, if he wanted to, go slap LPDS in some convenient strip mall, or on some tract of land out on Lexington Road, but that defeats the purpose of LPDS in the most fundamental way. Strip mall? Kiss any sort of unique architecture or atmosphere goodbye. Other tracts that aren't strip malls also force Bruno to sacrifice the "neighborhood feel" that he's pushing for.

But my favorite point that you make, and I mean this in a real way, not a sarcastic way it the one about being burned before by developers. It's a solid point, but I'd respond by asking you this: did the Cedar Pointe folks go to as much trouble to adapt the site plans and solicit input from the neighborhood as Bruno and LPDS has? I don't know for sure, but I'd suspect the answer is no. If they didn't and Cedar Creek et al got burned, I feel for you. Most developers are greedy. Most are bastards. But why punish LPDS for the failures of Ansonborough? If this were just another zoning issue, I'd be on your side with this point, but it isn't another zoning issue precisely because of the efforts that LPDS has made to garner community support while holding on to their dream.

As always, thanks for commenting, and I, for one, look forward to having you on our side in future issues.

monticello_pres said...

I applaud your consistency and your logic. And I agree about the time you've spent on this issue.

I also cannot disagree with you about developers in general. But, actually, the folks at Cedar Pointe were very good in considering our requests and concerns and making swell promises. The development, as proposed, will be just peachy. Too bad it sits as unfinished drainage ditches, piles of dirt, and thriving weeds. Of course, to be honest, construction has started this week. So 9 months of delay may have found a money source.

Need to move off that topic, though, because it really doesn't need to take off as a major sub plot here. I tossed it out there as food for thought... you know, the walk a mile in another's moccasins sort of thing. Trying to frame all of the issues that go into our opposition.

While it's much easier to say... "they just don't like development" or... "they don't like that latino idea"... or whatever... it's just not that simple. I think you guys understand that and have stayed away from that to a large degree. Mostly when our side of the debate has earned the additional consideration (we certainly have not done that throughout). But many still try to keep it that simple and it just isnt'.

But here is where I do disagree with your assessment of Mr. Rubio. I just struggle to believe that a business owner who has had 2 evictions from 2 separate property owners - who seems to struggle with following landlord requests - can be a model citizen under an inadequate government watch. I think your quote was "model neighbor" and "really well run" business. From the problems he has encountered in his current locations, good food and festive atmosphere not-with-standing, the track record just don't show me that.

Maybe I am dead wrong. If I am, I owe an apology to the LPDS folks - mostly Bruno Rubio. Regardless, I can't envision a restaurant and/or developer having a clear enough track record for me to agree to a C-N zoning for this site. Again, there are just too many places (including outparcels that would not require a strip mall front). I am a HUGE Macaroni Grill fan. HUGE. But if they wanted Stu's site, I would object. Walmart outparcels, Lowes outparcels, and numerous sites on Lexington Hwy are there to have. No need to change CSD for one man's business plan.

Publius said...

With all due respect, I do think you're on the wrong track as far as Caliente and Pollo Loco (I know, they changed names, but for consistency's sake, I'm using the old names)are concerned. Both businesses were (are, in PL's case) hugely successful by my standards, in that they generated a good amount of revenue, and provided a unique dining experience, with lots of loyal customers. So, from a business standpoint, I do think that PL and CC were successful. That's not to say that they didn't have their problems, and that's what I'd like to address.

Because, I think that with the LPDS, you aren't going to see those problems. As far as Caliente was concerned, the main issues were alcohol and parking. And I'll admit, I'm not a fan at all of the BYOB business model. I'll also concede that there were quite a few times that I decided to forgo eating at Caliente because the parking lot was so crowded.

Now, with LPDS as planned, I think that both of those problems are easily solved. The parking lot looks to be more than sufficient to accomodate a full house (a problem at both CC and PL), and LPDS will have a pouring license. I would also note that LPDS isn't intended to be a carbon copy (or even reasonably close) to CC or PL, meaning in this case, that it's more of an upscale dining establishment. That would influence the alcohol situation as well as the live music issue.

With Pollo Loco, again you face the parking issue, which I mentioned above.

Now, I don't want to absolve Bruno from all responsibility here. Fact is, neither the CC or PL sites ended up being adequate for the expansion that ended up actually happening. I believe that the site plans for LPDS address those shortcomings, and should provide a more positive experience for not just his patrons, but for the surrounding neighborhoods.

Now as to the track record with his landlords, I can see that being a legitimate concern. But, there are two sides to every story. In the case of Pollo Loco, another side to that story is the little scoop that Johnathan had on recently, where he revealed that after Bruno lost the lease on the CC site, his PL landlord, one Jim Flanagan, doubled his rent at the PL site. In the story about the PL eviction in the ABH, Bruno alluded to the causes being parking (see above) and some sort of dispute over plans to purchase some real estate in Normaltown (presumably owned by Flanagan as well). That's all the ABH said, but I think a conclusion could be drawn that perhaps Flanagan got miffed about Bruno thinking about buying some of his property, and then changing his mind in order to pursue the LPDS site. That seems at least as probable as Flanagan suddenly up and deciding that he was fed up with overcrowded parking lots. Most likely though, Flanagan just found a buyer and decided not to renew Bruno's lease.

Because it was more recent, I've thought about the PL drama more than the CC stuff. (Also, the CC landlord didn't appear to have such a desire to see his name in the paper, but that's just my opinion.)But, as I've said, Bruno definitely has a lot of support in the neighborhoods around his existing site, as well as the former CC location, which should be an indication that he is a pretty good neighbor.

But, I'm not sure Bruno's track record with landlords (while a legitimate concern) is central to the debate, since the major reason for his interest in this site is that he can buy, not lease. What is central, as Blake pointed out today, is the future of CSD. I think we've mentioned that previously (honestly I've written so much on this topic, almost 12,000 words as this afternoon, and not counting today's posting, that I sometimes forget whether I wrote something of just thought about writing it.)

In Blake's article, he mentioned some other possibilities that have been floated around, like a school, library, or park (not likely, given the budget crunch), government offices (slightly more likely, I think, but not probable), or private sector office space (probably the most likely). But as I mentioned earlier, developers haven't exactly been champing at the bit to move on this parcel. After the spirited (to say the least) opposition and support, a developer on the outside looking in will probably be less likely to want to do something there.

Finally, I have to take exception semantically to your closing comment, "No need to change CSD for one man's business plan."

As we've mentioned before, the Planning Commission (some of whom presumably live on the east side)has supported LPDS as being consistent with the overall Land Use Plan. I think of it (biased, I know) as an enhancement of CSD, but not a radical change by any means. After all, in what I think was an incredibly unfortunate choice of words, C-) and C-N are apparently "kissing cousins."


Publius said...

Sabado Gigante on the east side! Now that's funny! You know, I try to bring the funny, but you just trumped me for the night.

Tell you what I'll do. I'll shoot Bruno and Matt an email, and put their response up on AP for all to see. Fair?

Of course, given how open and transparent they've been, you could also email them too. I swear, I really think these guys are in it for the right reasons and really want to hear and respond to questions, comments, etc about LPDS.

Anonymous said...

just an aside:

I think there have been good stories on this blog regarding LPDS and other issues and I was beginning to think you guys were pretty savvy until I read that you were crediting Blake Aued for doing research and getting his facts right. Maybe there are 2 Blake Aueds but the one that writes for the ABH virtually never gets anything right...still, even a blind pig...

Publius said...

Ah, well. Blake's ok. We've had our disagreements in the past, with Blake and his predecessor, and we agree that the ABH sometimes leaves something to be desired.

Besides, the depths of our savviness have yet to be plumbed. Wait until people actually start running for office around here. We're super-excited about that.

Anonymous said...

LPDS appeals to younger "residents" on the eastside? Well I guess that's what's important. Never mind the hardworking homeowners. I mean the county already got their taxes right?

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