Whitewater’s Planning Commission met last night, and among the topics was consideration of re-zoning and a conditional use permit for Casual Joe’s, a new restaurant, tavern, and distillery to operate at 319 W. James Street (at the site of a long-unused commercial building, the former Fort Auto Body).
On 4-3 votes, a majority of the Commission approved both the re-zoning and the conditional use permit.
I’ve supported this project, hoped that an accommodation could be reached, and think this was the right outcome. See, along this line, Whitewater’s Planning Commission Meeting for 10.14.13. (Needless to say, I have neither a financial nor a personal connection to the proposal; I simply believe it’s a good idea for Whitewater.)
One well-understands that the idea is controversial to some; in two consecutive Planning Commission meetings, concerns were both heard at length and (I’d say) thoroughly and methodically addressed.
One of Whitewater’s planning commissioners offered an observation about a prior project that was controversial at the outset, but has turned out very well (my transcription, however imperfect):
….Some of the conversation we’ve had reminds me of the drive-thru liquor store conversation over on the Westsider. Some of you may not even know that we have a drive-thru liquor store, but if you’ve been here, calamity was ensured. And, I don’t want to make light of this, because in that case there are residents nearby, but the slippery slope argument was used.
What happened in this case is that it was approved, and it was approved because the person, the applicant, did his homework, involved partners, amended the plan, and it was a known…it was somebody who was established in the neighborhood – long-established in the community, and he had a stake….
Well said. I remember that discussion clearly; there are advantages to a long memory.
It’s also true that the project proposed for 319 W. James Street is exactly the sort of project that Whitewater’s Comprehensive Plan – whatever one thinks of it generally – does contemplate for a location like this one. To read from those planning documents and believe otherwise, really, is a misunderstanding of what those documents both say and strive to foster.
To paraphrase from a recent presidential campaign slogan, this is the change for which we’ve been waiting.
For us, in Whitewater, this is the emerging business and entrepreneurial culture, of restaurants, merchants, and independent professionals, for which we have been hoping.
Big has failed us, stodgy has failed us, top-down has failed us.
Not everyone sees this as opportunity, I know. Much of this is comfort with the past, even if for the whole city the past has been embarrassingly less than a reasonable person would hope, excuses and exaggerations notwithstanding.
What comes to us now, fortunately, will not be yesterday’s environment – it will be a new and better one, more prosperous, more vibrant, of greater opportunities for all the community.
Best wishes to Chef Sailsbery and his staff for another successful venture.