Typically, a restaurant installing a condenser unit would not warrant its own editorial. There are plenty of bigger things going on: lawsuits being filed, townhouses being built, domain names being taken, etc. But the council’s 3-2 vote to reverse a compromise offered by a local businessman to appease residents was perplexing and irresponsible.
We can hear it already: “There goes the Review, backing up the Backmans again.” Not quite. We actually thought the Backmans’ stubborn insistence that a condenser unit in the rear of caffe de Luca would create enough noise to disturb the peace bordered on absurd. But the village’s recommending bodies thought the Backmans’ concerns had merit, and even the restaurant’s owner was willing to compromise.
For those not up to speed, the ZBA and Plan Commission both recommended that the restaurant be required to add sound screening to its condenser to solve any potential noise issues. The Plan Commission also wanted the village to name a decibel level the unit could not exceed.
Owner Art Sundry then decided that he would prefer to just place the unit on the restaurant’s roof, as he did not want to be a “guinea pig” for some subjective decibel cap. The change eliminated the noise problem, so the recommendations for sound screens were discarded.
On Monday, however, the council voted to eliminate the requirement to put the condenser on the roof. Since the ordinance was drafted under the assumption that it would be on the roof, it contained no mention of sound screening.
All the thoughtful debate during the public hearing process, not to mention admirable compromise by Sundry, was disregarded, and the request somehow ended up being granted in its original form.
Critics are sure to say that the council manipulated the process to gradually chip away at the Backmans’ request until their issues disappeared from consideration. Only the commissioners know if this is what occurred. Regardless, actively discouraging compromise between businesses and residents seems counterproductive to everything local government is supposed to stand for.
One would think that the council would have seen that a viable solution for both parties had been reached and thought “Great, our job’s been done for us. We can all go home a little earlier.” Instead, the council went a step further than passively placing businesses above residents; it actually went out of its way to ensure that residents would not have a say.
It seems the vote had less to do with the issues involved and more to do with the people bringing them. The council was not going to let the guy from CUinFP inconvenience the guy from Main Street. Essentially, the council did exactly what voters trust them not to do: Use their authority to help their friends and hurt their enemies.
This was a pretty small-time move, more of a cheap shot than a conspiracy, and we hope that the council would have acted more responsibly if this had been a matter that affected more people. But moves like these just make the larger scale conspiracy theories endorsed by the village’s critics that much more believable.