Planning Commission Weighs In

Planning Commission Weighs In

Expanding eateries and taking care of expanded waistlines are on the agenda.

Appropriately enough the June meeting of the Alexandria Planning Commission was held on 6/6/06 because two items on the agenda seemed to fit right into the old saying, "The Devil made me do it."

Then there were two others items that dealt with subjects geared to challenging those devilish temptations. Finally, it was rounded out by two final matters approving requests from the devil's nemesis, the church, geared to aiding "the flock" in their desire to gain greater access to "the Word."

In the first case, Planning Commissioners gave their approval to the establishment of a new restaurant and carry-out at 606 King St., by Bruegger's Enterprises, Inc. The former location of a BB&T bank branch.

A chain restaurant, Bruegger's Bakery began operation in New England in 1983. The company currently operates approximately 250 restaurants throughout the nation.

The applicant, represented at the Commission's public hearing by Attorney Duncan Blair, proposes to operate a bakery/cafe and carry- out offering "fresh hot bagels, unique coffee blends, specialty sandwiches, fresh-made salads, carb friendly wraps, stone hearth breads, soups, and deserts," according to the staff report.

The only objection to granting the Special Use Permit (SUP) came from the Old Town Civic Association. "Restaurant uses should not replace personal service type uses," Michael Hobbs, OTCA president, stated.

"The King Street Retail Strategy strikes a fragile balance between residential and commercial uses. We are concerned about the mix of uses," he said.

"This is consistent with the Retail Strategy," said Blair. He pointed out that the former site of the McDonald's Restaurant, directly across King Street from Bruegger's site is scheduled to become a Walgreen Drugstore. Therefore, the number of restaurants in the 600 block will remain constant.

In their report, Planning & Zoning Department staff determined,

"The proposed restaurant will contribute to the increased vitality of King Street and will also add to the mix of restaurant opportunities in the area." It will be open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., be able to seat approximately 48 customers, and serve an estimated 2,700 patrons per week.

ANOTHER APPLICATION that night, geared toward increasing the capabilities of an existing restaurant to offer increased year-round seating to its customers, was also represented by Blair before the Commission. Restaurant Eve, located at 110 S. Pitt St., sought an SUP to enclose the existing outdoor dining area at the rear of the property.

The current 10 by 30 feet patio area currently accommodates approximately 16 seats. This will be maintained after the renovation and not exceed the overall 138 maximum indoor seats "currently permitted." Existing seating capacity is well below that number with 104 indoor seats presently.

Staff noted, "The proposed enclosure of the outdoor seating area will have little impact on the existing operation." No other changes are proposed, including hours of operation.

Addressing the question of the potential loss of open space, staff stated, "the subject space is already a concrete slab that is not visible from the public right-of-way, and is separated from the residential zone to the south by a tall wood fence." The addition will be only 10 feet tall with no windows facing south, according to staff.

IN JUXTAPOSITION to the two proposals encouraging indulgence were two others designed to help the fallen in reducing those extra consumed calories. Jim Gasson proposed to add another fitness studio to his "Curves" franchise by opening a location at 2609/2611 Mount Vernon Avenue.

Gasson now operates a Curves in the Fox Chase Shopping Center, 4613 B-D Duke St. Specifically oriented toward women, Curves is the largest fitness franchise in the world.

Presently containing a 3,392 square feet, single story commercial building, the site contains two lots of record with a total area of 11,300 square feet. There is 100 feet of frontage on Mount Vernon Avenue, 113 feet of depth, and a side parking lot with 15 spaces, according to the staff report.

The SUP for the Mount Vernon Avenue location was originally approved in November 2004. However, if no action is taken within 18 months an applicant must reapply or apply for an extension. Gasson application for an extension was approved without debate.

An application by the Old Town Athletic Club, Inc., 209 Madison St., to increase their hours of operation and expand their existing facilities was also approved. Presently the club operates from 5:45 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. Newly recommended hours would be 5:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Friday and 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

The expansion proposal calls for the overall facilities to increase from 25,124 square feet to 41,426 square feet in the 116,000 square feet building in which it is located. The expansion, which will encompass the entire second floor, "will allow the health club to provide larger, upgraded locker rooms as well as upgraded work-out area," according to the staff report.

Renovation plans call for, a new entrance facing Madison Street giving new direct access to the lobby area. Existing entrances will be maintained from the parking garage at the east side and from Fairfax Street.

IN FINAL ACTIONS that evening Blair represented St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 228 S. Pitt St., in their SUP proposals for parking reduction and a request for encroachment into the public right-of-way for the installation of an ADA compliant ramp, stairs and landing to aid parishioners.

In the first instance the church requested that no new off-street parking requirement be enforced based on major renovation to upgrade the church's properties at 228 S. Pitt and 413 Duke streets, known as Wilmer Hall and Damascus House respectively. Although, the project includes minor renovations to the Church Sanctuary and Norton Parish Hall, there is no increase in capacity to either the Sanctuary or classroom space.

The encroachment request allows "the installation of a handicapped ramp, stairs, and landing" extending approximately four feet from the building face for an estimated 33 feet. It would "improve functionality and provide handicapped accessibility," according to the application. Both proposal were recommended for approval by the Planning Commission.