Editor’s Note: City Council was wrong on Black Market Moto Saloon decision

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Black Market Moto Saloon owner Matteus Frankovich said he just wants to provide a neighborhood gathering place for Woolen Mills, and plans to apply for a $1,500 special use permit so the restaurant can continue hosting live music. Photo by John Robinson. Black Market Moto Saloon owner Matteus Frankovich said he just wants to provide a neighborhood gathering place for Woolen Mills, and plans to apply for a $1,500 special use permit so the restaurant can continue hosting live music. Photo by John Robinson.

There is a difference between comprehensive planning and comprehensive reasoning, but they share the same oxymoronic nature. Last week the City Council voted not to grant Matteus Frankovich and the Black Market Moto Saloon the special use permit the business needs to host live music, saying it was not part of the city’s comprehensive plan for the intersection of Market and Meade.

The vote came after the Planning Commission had voted 5-1 to recommend terms for a compromise and after the venue had passed City Council’s own independent sound test. My neighbor, Kathy Galvin, explained the decision, saying “the property use is not harmonious with the existing patterns of use in the neighborhood.” The old existing patterns of use line, eh?

There were a number of elements involved in the decision, no doubt, and everyone knows it’s hard to make money off of a music venue the size of the Moto Saloon. But I’ve chosen to depart from my usual pattern of introducing the cover story with this column to talk about a news story we ran on the Web, because I have a bone to pick with the decision.

Who determines “harmonious use,” and where does disharmony come in? Council killed live music because it was afraid of the Woolen Mills Neighborhood Association, which has been arguing that the same light industrial corner should be down-zoned for many years. Just like it killed live music in Belmont a few years back. Except this time, the police never got a noise complaint about the venue, even though councillors cited the neighborhood’s reaction as a major impetus for their decision. Were people calling the bat phone? Or did some members of the neighborhood association, because this is a small town, have a direct line to city staff?

Neighborhood associations are informal groups designed to organize neighborhoods. They don’t exist everywhere in town, and they are almost always dominated by a small group of volunteers. When River Bend Management finishes City Walk, adding 300 residential units just across the street, the Carlton/Meade corridor will get even busier, and it’s already a fast-growing restaurant district. Once the city completes a walking bridge connecting Riverview Park and Pantops, much of the bike and foot traffic will move up and down Market Street.

The city says it wants to take better advantage of its riverfront. That can only happen if the riverfront and the Downtown are connected, which will happen along either Market or Meade as businesses recognize the opportunity. The Woolen Mills neighborhood will need protection for more than its spruce trees and industrial buildings then, and I hope the Council shows a more comprehensive comprehension when that time comes.

  • Franklin B Geldensmitzer III

    short sighted on the part of the city…a perfect instance of a city squashing small business for fear of the unknown (future use concerns of permit should BMMS close as stated in their pre-decision decision email). This city supports small business as long as it’s feux-4star-faire….try something different and you’ll get the BMMS treatment. god forbid another entrepreneurial mind with a clever business model attempt to break the mold…the city will shut you down…simply because of those noisy empty cans that be rollin around this town.

  • JRP

    Maybe City Council members should reach into their pockets and reimburse the city coffers for lost revenue….

  • Flummoxed

    I’m afraid you’re a little late to the game, Mr Morris, and apparently didn’t do your research prior to writing. You’re criticizing a neighborhood that has enthusiastically tried to participate in the planning process for decades. All of this information is available via a simple Google search, so I’m curious why you omitted the crucial first step of searching for facts to back up your claim. Barring an internet search, having a conversation with the players themselves might have offered some insight into the facts.

    The City has repeatedly ignored resident voices during the Comp Plan process, and this has happened in several neighborhoods, not just the Woolen Mills. The common theme in the ignored neighborhoods has been a lack of representation at the table, and a blue collar demographic. This hasn’t been an issue for neighborhoods like Greenbrier and Rugby-Meadowbrook Heights. They are allowed their trees and their peace and quiet, with no questions asked. They are not asked to justify their desires for their own neighborhoods.

    I find it curious that you do not approve of Council’s decision regarding the Moto SUP, yet you never once make the case for Moto being there. Have you ever spoken with any of the impacted residents, or is this an argument made out of personal supposition and a bit of magical thinking? It would be helpful if you gave the readers a glimpse into the methodology employed to reach a conclusion that seems to read “Moto is good, though I can’t say why. The neighborhood association is bad, though I’ve never spoken to them.”

    • http://c-ville.com/ Giles Morris

      Thanks for the reply Flummoxed. Strange name. Is it local? I guess the best and simplest reply is that I have nothing against the Woolen Mills Neighborhood Association and support its efforts to protect itself. I’m too new to know the history so I look at that corner and this issue as is, not as part of a long conversation between WMNA and the City. What’s good? A business owner started a business that was working in a space zoned industrial. He created a scene that was needed, in large part because you can’t have music in Belmont. The corner of Market and Meade is poised to grow. Is growing. For a variety of reasons (see City Walk). I think Woolen Mills will face a lot bigger threats in the years to come, mainly because of its proximity to the river, and that this was a case of pointing years of frustration at the wrong guy. Was it really just a noise issue? Mainly, my criticism was for Council for turning it into a giant debate about code and comprehensive planning. It was just a special use permit. For music.

  • Fed up with the B.S.

    How bizarre for the editor of a newspaper to take such a blatant stand against the quality of life of residents of the city! Aren’t you supposed to be fair and unbaised as a news person? Obviously, you are not. Quite frankly, unless you live near any of these venues, then you should just keep your trap shut because you have absolutely no clue. I suggest that you try going without sleep or being continually woken up by the noise and drunken jerks screaming as they leave these venues. You see your property destroyed, watch people pissing in your yard, or having sex in parked cars in front of your house. Let’s not even begin to talk about loss of home values due to people not wanted to live in such a “residential” area. There are plenty of other places to open up shop for bars with music – stay OUT of the residential areas.
    The destruction of the sanctity of one’s home – i.e. not even being able to enjoy the peace of quiet of one’s own home due to noise – is something that makes a resident understand terrorist actions, quite frankly, The Woolen Mills residents are lucky that they didn’t have to fight as long or as hard as we Belmonters did to stop this trend.
    How sad to see a newsperson, who is supposed to be informed, be so clueless!

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