Mellow Mushroom and We Love Avondale reach tentative agreement

 

Final approval awaiting January 5 LUZ meeting

 

A month of hard work behind closed doors has led to a tentative New Year’s agreement in the lingering battle over the opening of the Mellow Mushroom in the Shoppes of Avondale.

Representatives from both sides met several times last month with District 14 City Councilman Jim Love in an effort to find a compromise. At the end, it took a closed meeting of Mellow Mushroom representatives with the concerned groups to come up with the conditions of the agreement, which will be presented for approval to the Land Use and Zoning Committee on Jan. 5. The groups who appealed a Planning Commission decision to grant outdoor sales and service – and full sale of alcohol – include We Love Avondale LLC, Riverside Avondale Preservation, Pine Street residents and Riverside residents.

“The meetings were designed for appellants and Mellow Mushroom to work together to see where they each stood so they could reach a compromise. The goal was for them to resolve their differences prior to the LUZ meeting, which they’ve accomplished,” said Love, who held the first of three meetings Dec. 7. The others were held Dec. 12 and Dec. 20, each in Love’s office. “I congratulate all parties for working to come up with this compromise. No one got everything they wanted; both parties gave and got a little bit.”

Present at one or all of the meetings were: Jim Love and Kevin Kuzel (Love’s assistant); Dylan Reingold (general council’s office); John Valentino, Steve Diebenow, Laura Jones and Heather Reynolds (Mellow Mushroom); George Gable, Jennifer Mansfield, Alicia Grant, Tommy Donahoo, Jr., Mark Anderson, Ben Phillips, Susan Fraser and Bill Proctor (WLA and other groups); Jonathan Oliff and Carmen Godwin (RAP). Sunshine laws did not apply because Love was the only council member present, so the meetings were restricted to appellants and Mellow Mushroom representatives.

While the appeals took precedence, other familiar issues were also negotiated: parking, noise control, restaurant scale and seat count. Love described the atmosphere as “congenial but serious.”

Both parties have agreed not to share specifics until after the LUZ meeting, but Love did provide some details. They agreed on a 204 seat overall total, with outside seating not exceeding 40. Along with also agreeing that the restaurant would average14 employees, they will meet the parking requirement by providing 22 spaces on the property along St. Johns Avenue currently occupied by an old gas station. An additional seven spaces will be grandfathered in from the old ‘town restaurant building, which Mellow Mushroom will occupy, and Love and Mellow Mushroom’s attorney, Steve Diebenow, are working with the city’s planning department to provide two handicapped spaces along St. Johns in front of the restaurant.

“Conditions allow the sale of alcohol and outdoor sales and service provided certain restrictions are put into place concerning hours of outside operation, live entertainment and overall impact on the neighborhood,” said WLA representative Tommy Donahoo. “In essence, our goal from the start has been to press upon this applicant that he must meet the code and stay within the character of the Shoppes of Avondale.”

If proceedings move forward as expected, LUZ will vote to deny the appeals and approve the conditions as agreed upon by both parties. It will then go before the full City Council for a vote on Jan. 8.

“There is still design work to be done, but we should be able to begin construction within the next six months once we get city council approval,” Diebenow said.

Mellow Mushroom developer John Valentino is looking ahead. “We look forward to bringing the best pizza in town to Avondale. I’m excited for all of our friends and supporters and thank them for their efforts throughout this process,” Valentino said.

The special LUZ meeting takes place Saturday, Jan. 5 at 9 a.m. and will have a public hearing portion, according to LUZ chairperson Lori Boyer.

By Steve DiMattia
Resident Community News

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