No patio for Larkin’s, Columbus says

Published 10:54 am Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The planning board, acting last Thursday in a quasi-judicial capacity as the town&squo;s board of adjustment, denied the 10-ft. variance request by a 4-1 vote, with board member Eric McIntyre being the sole &dquo;yes&dquo; vote.

Some planning board members said they had a problem determining any hardship to Larkin&squo;s to justify the variance.

&dquo;I&squo;m wishing you well, really, but I don&squo;t see the hardship,&dquo; said planning board member Ernie Kan.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Chairman John Hicks agreed and said the patio would be too close to the road. It&squo;s a commercial highway, Hicks said, not a downtown street.

Larkin&squo;s asked for a 10 ft. variance on a 25 ft. setback requirement to construct an outdoor seating area. If the variance had been approved, the patio would have been 16 ft. from the actual road and a few feet from the sidewalk.

Renovations are being made currently to three end buildings of Dunn&squo;s Commons to house the restaurant. Plans were for the outdoor patio to be built on the side of the building facing a town sidewalk and Hwy. 108.

According to a Polk County building permit issued in January, Larkin&squo;s renovations to house the restaurant were expected to cost $375,000.

Planning board members also mentioned the fact that an earlier 4.2-foot variance was given to Columbus Commons developer Dan Dunn, so the total encroachment on the setback requirement would have been 14.2 ft. if the 10 ft. variance had been granted. Safety concerns were reviewed as well as the town&squo;s reluctance to set a precedent by allowing such an encroachment, especially on Hwy. 108.

Mark and Larkin Hammond, Larkin&squo;s owners, said that with the fenced-in patio, a retaining wall and the patio being located on a higher level than Hwy. 108, they are comfortable with the safety of the patio.

Hammond said that Larkin&squo;s is known for outdoor seating.

&dquo;We have to have outside seating,&dquo; Hammond said. &dquo;It&squo;s a shame. I&squo;m very sad that I can&squo;t have what&squo;s really needed for this town.&dquo;

She said unfortunately since the town didn&squo;t grant the variance, Larkin&squo;s will probably occupy that space only for the period of the current three-year lease with Dunn.

The Hammonds said that in deciding where to house another Larkin&squo;s, they were told by their architects that an outdoor patio could be added on to the Dunn&squo;s site. They said if they had known it wasn&squo;t possible, that site would have never been chosen because of the importance of Larkin&squo;s offering outdoor seating.

Columbus resident Kathleen Kent, who was the only public official to speak against the town&squo;s granting a variance, said that granting this variance would take away from the reason the town has ordinances.

&dquo;I do regret you were not satisfied with the work of your architect, but we the citizens of Columbus are not responsible for that,&dquo; Kent told Larkin&squo;s owners.