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Devine Street parking variance again put on hold

Staff Report //April 10, 2018//

Devine Street parking variance again put on hold

Staff Report //April 10, 2018//

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After a spirited discussion, the Board of Zoning Appeals deferred its recommendation for a parking requirement variance at 3006 Devine St.

Family-owned Backstreets Grill is hoping to open its second location at the property, the site of a former office building near Urban Cookhouse. Developer Frank Cason, owner of Cason Development Group, said it is the first expansion for the Hickory, N.C.-based eatery.

The refurbished office building is currently 4,500 square feet. A city ordinance requires eight parking places per 1,000 square feet, totaling 36 spaces. The variance would allow four parking spaces per 1,000 square feet, making the current 18 spaces available acceptable.

Tuesday’s action represented the second delay for the request, also deferred at the board’s March 13 meeting.

Cason told the board Tuesday that parking is a concern but said he has secured three other locations off-site for patron parking, upping the total number of spaces to 49. Cason said his group has procured leases from all three locations, but under attorney advisement could not disclose details of the agreements.

The off-site parking locations are the Acupuncture Clinic, Sadler Insurance and Riverside Community Church.

“All three lots add beneficial layers to the proposed restaurant,” Cason said. “Need for space is critical.”

He pointed out that other areas in Columbia, including locations in Five Pints and on Main Street, have received variances to the city’s parking ordinance.

Board member Calhoun McMeekin said he was not comfortable agreeing to the variance without having the leases run the full term of Cason’s agreement with the restaurant, which is seven years.

Cason called that a risk his group is unable to take at this point in the process.

Representatives from groups in the Shandon area brought concerns before the board that included the number of restaurants currently in that block of Devine Street, a potential increase in noise and crime from the proposed restaurant and the saturation of cars and pedestrians that already exists in the area.

“It’s an understood concern of Five Points creeping into the Devine Street corridor,” McMeekin said.

During discussion, board members were torn between balancing residential and commercial development. McMeekin said public concerns are important, but he doesn’t want the board to hinder a company willing to do business in Columbia. He said his decision hinged on the extended leases.

Cason said his group would be open to a scenario in which the leases could be extended, and the board agreed to hear the matter again next month.

Backstreets Grill opened in in 1996. It features wraps, salads, sandwiches and burgers, along with the motto “Great Food. Good Friends. Bad Parking.”