Caffe de Luca owner Art Sundry finally received an answer on his request to install a cooler and condenser unit in the rear of his restaurant at 7427 Madison St. Monday night, but not without one last round of controversy from the village council.
Sundry originally brought his request before the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) in January, but was met with resistance from Steve and Gloria Backman, who live across the alley from the restaurant and were concerned that the condenser unit would create a noise problem.
The ZBA recommended that Sundry be required to install sound screening with the condenser. The Plan Commission seconded the recommendation, and asked the village council to set a maximum decibel level that the condenser would not be permitted to exceed.
Before the matter came before the council for a final vote, however, Sundry offered to instead place the condenser on his roof, stating that he did not want to serve as a guinea pig for sound restrictions.
In March, the council voted 4-1 to draft an ordinance allowing Sundry to install the condenser, with Mark Hosty dissenting, asking that the provision requiring it to go on the roof be repealed despite Sundry’s offer.
On Monday, however, Commissioner Tim Gillian and Mayor Anthony Calderone changed their positions, voting to amend the ordinance so that it would not include this provision.
“I feel that it’s unfair and overly burdensome. I’m perfectly willing to have him put it on the roof, but I don’t think we should force him,” said Commissioner Tim Gillian, noting that a similar condenser in back of Francesca’s Fiore, 7407 Madison St., has not led to problems.
Commissioner Patrick Doolin disagreed.
“If in fact this is a burden, he took it upon himself. This was his offer of an olive branch,” said Doolin, noting that the council majority did not seem to be equally bothered by burdens posed to residents by caffe De Luca employees parking on residential streets or by its recent addition of valet parking, which he called “dangerous.”
“I’d be shocked if caffe de Luca was the only place where employees park where they’re not supposed to park,” responded Calderone. He said that he had no reason to believe the condenser would create any more noise than a typical residential air conditioning unit.
“Art caved in because he was feeling pressure from residents who raise every issue every time someone makes a zoning request,” added Calderone.
The council voted 3-2, with Doolin and Commissioner Terry Steinbach dissenting, to approve Sundry’s request, without the disputed provision. Sundry was granted a variation eliminating the requirement for him to provide two parking spaces for his business so that he could install the cooler unit in the restaurant’s rear, though this became a moot point when the council approved the new Downtown Business District zoning designation, which eliminates that requirement.