A proposal that would bring an independent coffee shop to the historic Masonic Hall in downtown Farmington moved forward Monday, after the airing of an odiferous issue.
Blue Hat Coffee wants to move into the leased, first floor space. The coffee shop, bakery, and art gallery currently occupies a historic building in Coldwater. The Farmington Masonic Lodge would continue to use the second floor and a small office on the first floor.
Plans include leaving a dumpster in the parking lot as is, without screening or an enclosure. During a Planning Commission public hearing, neighbor Ron Cline said he supports the shop but has concerns about the bin being relocated even closer to his house on the north side of Oakland Street. Odors drift toward the back of his home and porch, especially in the summer months, he said.
No other location
Commissioner Steve Majoros asked whether the bin could be located anywhere else.
“The short answer is no,” said project architect Jeff Scott. “If I pushed it up next to the building, I would be losing more (parking space)… We’re sided by three streets; unfortunately you’ve got to pick one.”
Commissioner Miriam Kmetzo asked about a proposed monument sign that exceeds the city’s size standard. Based on feedback from the Downtown Development Authority Design Committee, Scott said, a sign on Grand River has been moved farther west, and a freestanding sign will be added on Farmington Road to replace the proposed expansion of an existing Masonic Lodge sign at Farmington Road and Grand River.
The current design has a panel set inside a brick frame. Scott said keeping to the 20-foot limit would mean installing a simple illuminated panel.
“What the ordinance forces you to do is take away any sense of design,” he said. “It forces you to have a box. The beauty of having a PUD (Planned Unit Development) is that it allows you to be a little more creative with the sign.”
Economic and Community Development Director Kevin Christiansen said the larger sign would be part of the PUD agreement, rather than requiring a variance form the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Scott said the current plan also incorporates a Design Committee and Historical Commission recommendation to change the railing color on a proposed outdoor patio from white to black.
Blue Hat has also agreed to drop a request for reserved employee parking spaces in the public parking lot. A proposed change from untimed to 3-hour parking remains. Christiansen said 15-17 untimed parking spaces coming with the reconstruction of Oakland Street this year.
Majoros asked for more information on the net gain in parking spaces and suggested the commission might consider sacrificing a few to solve the dumpster issue.
Historical Commission chair Laura Myers presented a letter from the group that reinforced its review comments.
“We fully support the use of this beautiful building,” she said. “It will enable people to come in and appreciate it and our historic downtown.”
Lodge member Steve Schwartz said the coffee house will help keep the 143-year-old group alive. He said the Lodge chartered in 1876 with 12 members, and now has “about 12 active members” because of difficulty recruiting young people.
“This type of project really helps us keep going for another 143 years and doing the things for the community that we’ve always done,” he said.
Majoros’ motion to move the PUD agreement on to city council for review included conditions that discussions continue on the dumpster and signage. If council approves, plans will come back to the commission for final approval.