Less than two weeks after Rehoboth Building Inspector Damalier Molina announced Agave was reconsidering its Rehoboth Avenue location because of parking requirements, restaurant owners Chris McKeown and Mike Firetti officially submitted plans to the city for a structure that has no required parking.
City code requires one parking space for every 400 square feet of gross floor area if a restaurant has a gross floor area of 10,000 square feet or greater. Originally, Agave proposed a plan with a gross floor area of exactly 10,000 square feet, which would have required 25 parking spaces.
Under new plans, submitted to the city March 18, the gross floor area is 9,940 square feet. Firetti said they worked with their design team to make the restaurant three and a half feet narrower, which will create a pedestrian pathway from Rehoboth Avenue to Wilmington Avenue.
Along with the plans, McKeown and Firetti submitted a letter to Molina and City Manager Sharon Lynn stating while they disagree with Molina’s interpretation that the restaurant’s patio should be included in the gross floor area, the resulting pathway is a benefit for pedestrians.
The new plans do not trigger parking requirements, but Agave is still seeking to use city property on Wilmington Avenue to place its trash dumpsters and propane tanks. The use of city property would require a licensing agreement from the city, and was at the center of a heated discussion during a commissioner meeting March 15.
Commissioners unanimously approved a permit of compliance, which included the use of city property, during a meeting in December.
At the time, City Solicitor Glenn Mandalas said a licensing agreement would have to be drawn up, but if the permit of compliance were approved, the agreement would be expected.
McKeown and Firetti came back before the commissioners at the March meeting to formalize the licensing agreement but were met with resistance.
Mandalas presented commissioners with a licensing agreement that called for two dumpster enclosures and a propane tank, using a total of 177 square feet. The cost for Agave, per the proposed agreement, would be $1 a foot.
Commissioner Stan Mills said he couldn’t support the licensing agreement because Agave wants to build a brand-new restaurant. Mills recognized there are other restaurants using the alley for the same purpose, but he said, those are older properties. This is a public alley and the commissioners just can’t give away city property, he said.
During the meeting, Firetti said there had been many meetings with city officials about the design of the restaurant, and not one time did officials say putting the dumpsters and propane tanks in the alley wasn’t going to work. It was all kumbaya, he said.
Lynn said that wasn't the case, and read a December email from her to Firettii saying the dumpster location wasn’t going to work.
Attorney David Hutt, representing the property owner, said it could be argued Agave would be put at a disadvantage if all the other restaurants along the alley were allowed to use the alley, but not Agave.
After about 45 minutes of back and forth, Firetti abruptly requested the vote on the licensing agreement be taken off the agenda. He then left the meeting before commissioners decided what to do.
Commissioner Pat Coluzzi said this issue is a big problem and said it was a mistake to assume the building complied with code when the permit of compliance was issued. She said she was going to vote in favor of the agreement, but she hoped Agave would resubmit plans with the dumpsters and propane tanks on their property.
Mandalas could not be reached for comment, but the folks from Agave, for now, say the permit of compliance vote should prevail.
McKeown and Firetti said they have reviewed the tape from the December meeting, and they believe the licensing agreement was agreed upon. “From the discussion, the license agreement was part and parcel to the unanimous vote that took place,” McKeown and Feritti wrote in their letter to Molina and Lynn.
In a follow-up email, March 20, Mills said he hopes Agave follows Coluzzi’s suggestion. “I am hopeful Commissioner Coluzzi’s comment at the end of the meeting suggesting Agave become code compliant resonates with Agave such that they resubmit zoning-compliant plans utilizing only their property and not city property.”