Becoming a popular destination on the peninsula has put a strain on the compact Village of Egg Harbor when it comes to parking. It’s been an issue in the village for years that’s now been exacerbated by the immediate popularity of the recently opened One Barrel Brewing.
One Barrel owners Peter and Jennifer Gentry appeared before the village Plan Commission June 11 to discuss the parking situation after a number of complaints had been registered with the village regarding the renewed parking challenges with all the visitors to the new taproom.
Several business owners spoke about the parking problem, but they first said they appreciated the Gentrys opening their business in the village. Kaaren Northrop of Main Street Market said she is happy to have the Gentrys as neighbors but feels their business was not held to the same standards as established businesses when it came to the parking situation.
She took issue with a comment Administrator Ryan Heise made the night before at a village board meeting when he referred to parking issues as “real or perceived.”
“They are very real parking issues,” Northrop said, adding that she was sick to death of talking about parking, “so I hope we can stop talking about this and do something.”
Kim Jensen of Moja Rosa’s and Pink Bakery said parking has been a big problem in the village for years, but “it never gets talked about.”
When Peter Gentry presented his plan for the brewery to the Plan Commission a year ago – on June 26, 2018 – the plan included a 35-vehicle parking lot. But that, Gentry explained, was a conceptual plan, and reality allowed for only 13 parking spaces on the property. He said the budget necessarily changed as construction took place, and money that had been earmarked for the 35-vehicle lot went to the unanticipated cost of building two ponds for stormwater mitigation.
However, even with the reduced number of on-site parking slots, One Barrel is still in compliance with parking requirements according to the village ordinance, which counts sparking spaces within a 500-foot radius of the business. Deputy Administrator Megan Vandermause made a count of the spots and said there are 98 parking spaces within the 500-foot radius of the taproom.
“I want parking here more than anybody else,” Gentry said. “I want to add some parking to the manner I am able to.”
Asked by Plan Commission Chair Joe Smith what his plan is, Gentry said this summer he will double the on-site parking to 26 stalls, but he added, “It has proven to be challenging this summer to even get a paving company to call me back.”
Gentry said he does have a company that would be able to put in a clean-stone base by July, which would include an enclosure for the dumpsters used by the business. They have generated another complaint about One Barrel – that its dumpsters are not screened off from public view.
Two of the commissioners – Jon Kolb and Kathy Navis – were concerned that Gentry was not held to the number of parking spots he had proposed to the commission one year ago.
Prefacing her comments by saying she is thrilled to have One Barrel in the village and sees it as a wonderful addition to the business offerings in the community, she wanted to know why the village cannot legally require One Barrel to comply with its original plan.
Village attorney Jim Kalny explained it’s the fault of a lack of specificity in the Conditional Use Permit (CUP) the village issued for the project. In the future, Kalny said, the village must specify that CUP applicants must comply with all conditions before occupying the building as an operating business.
In the meantime, he said, the CUP with Gentry is too vague for the village to expect to win a costly court fight on this particular issue.
Kolb and Navis were also concerned about capacity at the business. Kolb said Gentry had originally proposed 190 seats total, indoors and out. Heise said the village utility manager counted seats at the taproom – standard procedure in assessing a business for utility billing – and determined there are 89 seats inside and 200 outside, which, he added, still puts the business in compliance for parking according to the village code.
Kolb suggested that instead of giving the go-ahead for Gentry to increase his parking space to accommodate 26 this summer, the commission should ask him to hold off until he can do the full 35 spots he first mentioned. Asked if that was doable, Gentry said, “With the right amount of money, there’s enough to do anything. It would be a challenge, frankly.”
“We are trying to be neighborly,” Jennifer Gentry said. “Twenty-six is an effort for us to try to move in the right direction.”
Ultimately, the commission agreed to the revised, 26-stall parking plan with gravel (until Gentry can secure an asphalt company to coat it) and screened dumpsters by the end of July. He is to return to the next Plan Commission meeting in two weeks with plans drawn up by a civil engineer. Kolb and Navis voted against the motion.
“Don’t be discouraged,” village board member and business owner Lisa Van Laanen said to the Gentrys after the vote. “Everybody is very happy you’re here. We’re thrilled you’re here. This will be behind you soon.”
But everyone acknowledged that the village has a continuing parking problem, and long-term plans are needed. The Plan Commission was asked to read a recent parking study done for the village and come back with thoughts at the next meeting.
Heise said the village has to make better use of existing parking through better signage and perhaps consider where a centralized parking spot could be located in the village. Commissioner Emily Pitchford suggested a parking map be posted to both the village and Egg Harbor Business Association websites.
Audience member Marianne Scherer, who, with husband Clarence, sold the building the Gentrys renovated for One Barrel, said that not many years ago, when the late Nancy Fisher was village president, there was talk of building a multi-story parking garage in the village – an idea that made Heise bristle.
The commission also rejected a parking-renovation plan from Shipwrecked Brew Pub on the grounds that it did not meet the village’s landscaping standards. The business was told to come up with a new plan.