Blue Hat Coffee gets Farmington council nod

Farmington council members on Monday approved plans for Blue Hat Coffee that will require the city and Farmington Masons to broker a deal over parking and a Dumpster.

Catherine and Phillip Jewel plan to set up shop on the first floor of the historic Masonic Hall at the corner of Grand River and Farmington Roads. The Farmington Masonic Lodge owns the Civil War era building and would continue using the second floor and a small office on the first floor.

The city’s Planning Commission last month approved a Planned Unit Development (PUD) agreement required because of the property’s zoning. But they left open a couple of items: changes to a public parking agreement that expires in 2021, and construction of a Dumpster enclosure.

City council members settled both by leaving those details to be administratively decided before final site plan approval.

Blue Hat Coffee plans
Blue Hat Coffee’s proposed site plan shows the Dumpster enclosure on the west side of the parking lot.

2011 parking deal changes

Under the 2011 agreement, the Masons allow public use of the lot on the building’s north side. In exchange, the city has handled snow removal and maintained the lot. All parties – including the city’s parking committee – are on board with plans to switch from untimed to 3-hour parking.

The draft PUD agreement included two options: keeping the parking agreement in place until it expires, or negotiating to extend it. Masons favored the latter, because they’d like to avoid the expense of a $10,000 concrete pad underneath an enclosed Dumpster.

Mason Steven Schwartz told officials that the group has about a dozen active members and will in the coming months cover the expense of replacing the roof and soffits, about $55,000, as well as the building’s furnaces. He said that Blue Hat owners had already agreed to take snow and ice removal off the city’s plate.

“It made sense to have a parking agreement when the city was doing the maintenance,” Schwartz said during a 6 p.m. study session. “One solution is we extend the agreement for long-term access, and the city pays for the pad or to maintain the asphalt if it needs repairs.”

Architect Jeff Scott said that the cost of the pad could jeopardize the project.

’Historic preservation project’

“What we’re talking about is a tremendous historic preservation project,” council member Bill Galvin said during the 7 p.m. regular meeting. “It takes a lot of money, and (the Masons) have been great stewards of that building for many years.”

Galvin said while the concrete pad and parking agreement were important, in comparison to the value of the building and project, they’re “only semantics… The goal here is economic development and preservation.”

Schwartz said the parties could amend the parking agreement at any time, and the Masons can be flexible about how long the city has use of the lot.

“I don’t like the idea of the word ‘negotiation’,” he said. “This is not adversarial at all… We shouldn’t wait until 2021 to have that agreement pinned down.”

Mayor Steven Schneemann asked whether the PUD agreement would remain in place if Blue Hat moved out; city attorney Beth Saarela said it would, the agreement runs with the property. If Blue Hat decided on a significant expansion or a different type of business moved in, the agreement would have to come back through the planning process.

The approved PUD agreement now goes back to the Planning Commission for a final site plan review.

The Jewells hope to open their doors this fall. In the meantime, you can sample their coffee and baked goods at the Farmington Farmers & Artisans Market, held Saturdays, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Walter E. Sundquist Farmington Pavilion and Riley Park.