Neighbors weigh deal on cafe's expansion

Owner would withdraw bid for commercial zoning

October 29, 2003|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,SUN STAFF

Neighbors opposed to the expansion of a wine bar and cafe on the northern boundary of Columbia say they are considering negotiating a settlement with the property's owner.

About 20 nearby residents listened to a possible compromise presented Monday by Donald R. Reuwer Jr. of Reuwer Enterprises LLC for the Iron Bridge Wine Company, which opened in May in the former Crown's Pub.

If residents agree to drop opposition to a proposal before the county hearing examiner for a 540-square-foot enclosed addition, Reuwer said he would withdraw an application for commercial zoning through Howard County's comprehensive rezoning process, which is under way. He also said he would not seek commercial zoning for the next 31 1/2 years.

Because the County Council may make a decision by early next year in the comprehensive rezoning process, the residents, who fear increased traffic and noise along what they believe is an already congested road, think a deal might be necessary.

"Our hope was that ... the council would wait until we finished our case with the hearing examiner," said Anthony "Skip" Scarpone, whose property borders the bar.

"There are deadlines in front of us," said George Paytas, a Beaverbrook resident. The expansion issue is scheduled to go before the hearing examiner at 10 a.m. Nov. 24.

Although they still need to meet with their attorney and other members of the community to gain agreement, "the general consensus of that meeting was that we will try to pursue some sort of negotiated settlement," Scarpone said.

"The greater evil in this case is going to be commercial zoning," said Longfellow resident Carol Egan. But she said the draft agreement needs to be more specific in certain areas, such as the type of landscaping.

The pub existed before the area was zoned residentially, so it continued as a "nonconforming use." In Howard, nonconforming uses can be expanded up to 100 percent.

Originally, Reuwer requested approval of an unauthorized concrete patio as an outdoor dining area. He said yesterday that his goals are now to enclose the patio, improve access to the site from Route 108 and add "enough parking so we don't have problems with people trying to park across the street."

"How we accomplish [these goals] is immaterial to us," he said.

Reuwer believes that few opposed his goals but that there was concern about the possibility of further commercial development along the two-lane road to western Howard County.

"It makes everybody feel better to forever forestall the possibility that the bogeyman in the closet is going to jump out," Reuwer said.

Paytas said that the expansion would cause problems. Residents have had difficulty with customers illegally parking along Route 108 as well as with the increased traffic - especially because customers probably have been consuming alcohol, Scarpone said.

Reuwer also offered to put in a double row of parking spaces rather than one long line, thus maintaining a greater buffer from homes behind the bar, and to include some landscaping to reduce the impact, Scarpone said.

"The concept is good that they have," he said. "We have no arguments with what it is. Our arguments are with where it is."

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