Joseph Coleman wants to create a commercial center in the old Blue Star Restaurant building.
Once again, Ivywild neighborhood residents clashed with a developer over a proposal to skirt city code requirements.
At the conclusion of a hearing that ended after 8 p.m. June 25, City Council decided to bookmark the debate until July 9 — prolonging the fight further.
The proposal in question comes from Joseph Coleman of Blue Star Group, which developed the Ivywild School in partnership with Bristol Brewing Company, and operates the Principal's Office and Ivywild Kitchen inside the former school. Coleman wants to convert the warehouse next to Edelweiss Restaurant, which once housed the Blue Star Restaurant, into a commercial center containing a small music venue, medical marijuana dispensary and retail space.
Sound familiar? That's because earlier this year
, Coleman and business partner Marc Benning discussed turning the building into a music venue that would accommodate 500 people. But they didn't want to add any parking to the building's existing 26 or so spots.
After that idea met with opposition from residents and neighboring businesses, Coleman proposed the commercial center idea. City code would normally require such a facility to have 46 spots, but the development's proximity to a bike lane on Tejon Street allows a five percent reduction in parking requirements, lowering the quota to 44 required spots.
Urban planning manager Ryan Tefertiller says the developer secured an additional 11 on-street spots for the exclusive use of the commercial center's customers, bringing its total up to 37 spots. But the seven-spot shortage meant Coleman had to apply for a parking variance, which city staff approved administratively.
In May, the neighboring Edelweiss Restaurant and owners of five other surrounding properties appealed staff's decision to approve the parking variance. Here's where it gets complicated. The Planning Commission approved the appeal, and Coleman appealed their approval — sending the parking variance to City Council. (Another appeal, of staff's administrative decision to allow the dispensary less than 1,000 feet from an existing dispensary, was denied by Planning Commission.)
The end result of all those appeals: Councilors found themselves on June 25 debating whether to let Coleman avoid having to add parking for his proposed commercial center.
For the longtime family owners of Edelweiss Restaurant, the issue is deeply personal. Former manager Norman Moss told the Independent
in February that over the years, his family had bought four additional lots, and razed five houses and a two-car garage to add enough parking to accommodate their customers.
Edelweiss kept this sign when Blue Star closed.
In the meantime, the family was frustrated by the city's decision to grant Coleman a parking variance for Blue Star Restaurant when it operated in the warehouse building. They say they were forced to defend their own hard-earned parking when the restaurant was open between 1998 and 2017, hiring parking attendants and “booting” people who parked at Edelweiss and ate at Blue Star.
But at the Council hearing, Andrea Barlow, who represented Coleman, described the conflict between the two business owners as a "private matter."
"We have an office building downtown, and we have people in the neighboring residential units parking in our parking lots all the time," says Barlow, co-owner of planning firm N.E.S. Inc. "It happens to every business. You have the means to enact your own enforcement of that as that private property owner."
She added that since the Planning Commission's May decision, Coleman had reached an agreement with a neighboring property owner who said the commercial center could use 13 of his parking stalls in the evening, which would more than satisfy the 44-spot requirement.
Barlow also said creating additional parking went against her client's philosophy.
"They don’t want to tear down buildings to create parking," she told Council. "They want to contribute to a sustainable urban environment."
At the hearing, Moss argued Coleman was "manipulating the code to minimize parking requirements," and feared he would switch out the businesses operating in the commercial center after getting the variance approved, to other uses that would normally have stricter parking requirements.
A handful of Ivywild residents also spoke out against Coleman's appeal, including Marybeth Tryba, vice president of the Ivywild Improvement Society. She said the parking issue was not just about "property owners feuding," but affected the entire neighborhood by flooding the streets with traffic and consuming on-street parking.
"Yes, those streets are public parking," Tryba said. "We understand that. But our streets are narrow. We don’t have sidewalks."
City economic development officer Bob Cope spoke in favor of the appeal on behalf of Jariah Walker, executive director of the South Nevada Urban Renewal Authority. He said Walker believed the project would benefit both the Ivywild neighborhood and South Nevada Urban Renewal Area.
Ultimately, Councilor Don Knight moved to uphold the Planning Commission's decision, and deny Coleman's appeal, saying that it seemed to him that the project would create an adverse impact on the surrounding community, and that denying the parking variance would not unreasonably restrict the uses of the property.
But before Council could vote on that motion, Councilor Wayne Williams moved instead to continue the discussion at a hearing July 9. Council voted 4-3 in favor of that motion, with Councilors Yolanda Avila, Andy Pico and Knight opposed.
Councilors Jill Gaebler and David Geislinger, along with Council President Pro Tem Tom Strand, voted with Williams to continue the discussion. Council President Richard Skorman had recused himself from the discussion given his close relationship with Coleman. Councilor Bill Murray was absent.
The councilors requesting the delay wanted Coleman to provide a more formal, enforceable agreement with the property owner who would allow the use of 13 stalls after 6 p.m. They also wanted to know whether bike racks could be added on the property, as well as signs telling customers not to park in Edelweiss' lots.
Finally, some councilors wanted a restriction on the variance approval requiring "submittal and public notice and a formal approval in order for uses of the property to change over time," Tefertiller says — though he points out that a commercial center designation usually allows tenants to change without having to go through a new approval process.