Facts, respect, emotion embody public hearing on proposed new Yesterday’s

| 02 Nov 2017 | 02:21

By Linda Smith Hancharick
— Nearby residents of the proposed site of a new Yesterday’s restaurant and bar at 16 Elm St. came out in force to the planning board’s public hearing on Oct. 19, expressing concerns for their neighborhood should the project proceed as well as disappointment in the process.
Yesterday’s and its owner, John Christison, had many supporters on hand who spoke about the upstanding citizen and businessman he is and of his family establishment that has been a destination on Main Street for more than 30 years.
Anticipating a large crowd, the meeting was scheduled at the town hall where a standing room only crowd gathered. Many were turned away. Forty people signed up to speak.
There were two decidedly different takes on the application that would put a 3,600-square-foot restaurant and bar with 2,000 extra square feet of deck seating on just over three acres of property on Elm Street, next to the Warwick Car Wash. It is also right in the backyards of residents along West, Elm and Van Buren streets.
Many local residents were united in their message that this isn’t about Yesterday’s or Christison. Some said they have patronized Yesterday’s and like and respect Christison. Their objection is to putting a large restaurant/bar in what is predominately a residential neighborhood, bringing additional noise, traffic and late night activity that will irreparably harm their way of life and their home values.
They want more research to be done, specifically in those areas, as well as in exploring prior contamination of the property that was once a rail yard.
Supporters of Christison and the restaurant, wearing maroon shirts emblazoned with Yesterday’s Restaurant, insist Yesterday’s is a family restaurant, nothing more. They said Christison can be trusted to do the right thing for the good of this neighborhood. They noted he is a good neighbor and respected businessman.
The project so farChristison’s attorney John Cappello started the hearing off with a rundown of the project. The application was made to the village planning board in January. Over these past 10 months, the planning board has moved forward with the project, giving it a negative declaration for the State Quality Review Act (SQRA).
The parcel is zoned light industrial and much of Elm Street and the nearby area is a mix of commercial and residential properties, including the car wash and the shops at Mitchel Corners and the martial arts center on West Street.
The applicant has made some changes to the project since the application was first submitted, including moving the Dumpsters and the air conditioning units farther from the residences and enclosing them, and adding more trees to reduce light and noise.
Noise poses a legitimate question, Cappello said. His client has made revisions, including enclosing a portion of the outdoor deck that will provide seating for 68 people. There will be no outdoor music, he added, just small speakers on each table. Cappello said they will measure the noise when the business is up and operating, which caused some in the audience to laugh.
Cappello noted that his client has done a traffic impact study and environmental testing. The results for both, he said, showed no significant impact.
That is hard to believe for the neighbors.
‘Never another quiet night’“We don’t want a 3,600-square-foot restaurant and bar with 2,000-square-feet of decks in our backyard,” said Patrick Gallagher, a West Street resident whose backyard abuts the property. “No one can tell me that’s not going to be a major impact on our neighborhood.”
Traffic, noise and potential contamination were the topics of most concern for those in attendance.
Margaret McNeely had a chart of her own showing traffic proposed traffic patterns. She noted that in 1995, a traffic study showed 140 cars on Orchard Street on a Saturday afternoon and 480 cars on West Street.
“That’s 1995,” she said. “Think about the changes in the village. You have to look at a complete traffic study.”
Stephen Gross, an environmental planner and a former planning board member in the village, called for the board to rescind its negative declaration and to require an environmental impact statement.
And, Gross said, the zoning has failed the residents.
“Zoning was invented as a way to guide growth into the most appropriate location, to separate incompatible uses and to protect property values,” said Gross. “If this out-of-scale, incompatible project gets built, these homes will never experience another quiet night and their property values will plummet.”
Dave Smith is an audio engineer and 23-year Warwick resident. He had recordings of sounds, including restaurant exhaust fans, people talking, music from speakers – all from 50 feet away, with sound meter readings. All were either at or above allowable noise limits in the village code.
“If approved, they will consistently be in violation of the code,” said Smith.
Christie Toohey lives on West Street and can hear the concerts from Railroad Avenue, as well as the noise from Halligans. She cleans up her yard most mornings, picking up the trash from those who leave nearby bars. Her flowers are crushed from people falling into them. Adding Yesterday’s to this area of the village will make things worse in the area.
“The noise ordinance is not enforced,” Toohey said. “It’s sad that another three blocks in the village will be taken away. This is the first time I’ve seen people not being listened to with any regard whatsoever.”
A beloved placeChristison had many in his corner. Lauren Buturla talked of family celebrations and gatherings with family and friends all at Yesterday’s. She and others spoke of Christison’s generosity and compassion when family members were in St. Anthony Hospital and how he would visit and bring food to them.
Tyler Carey, Christopher Smith and Fred Schweikert spoke of the upstanding community member Christison is and how they are treated as members of the family at Yesterday’s.
And no one disputed that. Cappello and engineer Ross Winglovitz stated that this is an accepted use in the zoning. It is meeting all of the setbacks and requirements as indicated in the law, they said. Others said the project is not meeting those standards. Gross said the board would have its answers if the environmental studies were done correctly. And, they said, there is the spirit of the law that should protect its residents.
“Please stop this from happening,” said Van Buren Street resident Gedge Driscoll. “Not only for us but for our village.”
What’s nextThe Planning Board closed the public hearing. Now, it will decide if any of the issue brought before them should be looked into further. If not, they can approve the site plan at the next meeting, which is Thursday, Nov. 16, at 7:30 p.m. in village hall.
To view the entire meeting, go to https://townofwarwick.viebit.com/player.php?hash=i9NeD6c40Rc9.