2009-03-26 / Front Page

Thumbs up given to Dutch Harbor lunch shack plan

By Tyler Will

The Jamestown Planning Commission unanimously approved a summer lunch shack at Dutch Harbor Boat Yard at its March 18 meeting, despite residents' parking and crowd concerns.

Mark Liberati, an attorney representing his son Peter, the shack's planner, said the lunchroom will be in a 10-by-11 foot shack that already exists on the property, and it will offer deli sandwiches and soup. The lunch room's intended customers are those who keep their boat at Dutch Harbor, and have no nearby place to buy food for an afternoon trip on the water, Liberati said.

"That's really our market share," Liberati said at the meeting. "It's our customers saying, 'I wish we had something nearby.'" He added that boaters usually have to walk about a mile down the road to pick up food for an afternoon of sailing.

He said there will be no cooking inside the shack, because all the food will be brought from his son's restaurant in Newport. The deli meat will be kept in a refrigerator and the soup will be kept on a hot plate, which means there won't be any unsightly industrial equipment outside the building, he said.

After hearing back-and-forth discussion between Jamestown residents and Liberati, Committee Vice Chairman Mark Swistak outlined a few conditions.

There will be a review of the recommendation for the shack in one year; operating hours will be 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., with 30 minutes preparation before opening and 30 minutes cleanup after closing; no additional seating beyond a few tables at the shack; no cooking or external machinery; no signs except for one on the side of the building; and no external music.

"I'm trying to look at the unintended consequences that we might end up regretting," said committee member Nancy Bennett, who endorsed restrictions.

After the meeting, Swistak said he is confident the town will be able to maintain control of the lunch shack and any of the restrictions the town chooses to apply. "It becomes an issue of enforcement," he said.

Parking was the largest concern of area residents, many of whom said parked cars in the past have blocked fire hydrants and impeded emergency services vehicles, whose large size make turning around diffi cult on a crowded street.

West Ferry resident Mary Brennan and her husband, William "Bucky" Brennan, showed pictures of car-crowded streets. Mrs. Brennan said the street was already crowded before the lunch room, and such an attraction would likely bring more cars.

"I'm very, very concerned about the additional cars being generated," she said. "We really don't want the introduction of more traffi c down there."

Liberati insisted the planners have no intention of making the lunch shack a tourist destination. Committee member Barry Holland said the lack of advertising and publicity will likely keep it a small operation.

"I have a little trouble believing that it's going to be that attractive," he said. "Why would anybody want to be down there unless they were going to be down there in the first place?" He said boaters already have to park a long way down the street to walk to their boat; increased traffic is unlikely.

Even residents who liked the idea of being able to buy food for an afternoon of sailing said the extra traffic will be a problem.

"How much fun is it to come up there and just watch what's going on?" said Kate Smith, a resident of West Ferry. Smith said she owns a sailboat and admitted she would appreciate being able to buy food close to the harbor. But, she said the attractiveness of Dutch Harbor will bring more people and cars.

Several other residents expressed concern over a spike in tourism; families with children could spend a few hours watching boats, and large crowds could pollute the shore.

Liberati said large crowds probably won't be an issue, because his son has no intention to advertise the lunch shack and will only have one sign for it—the one on the side of the building—and Swistak included that in his list of conditions.

Liberati further tried to reassure the residents by saying the four or five tables the shack will have should also limit the size of the crowd it can accommodate. But, Spencer Potter said he was "unalterably opposed" to the idea of a lunch shack.

Residents also expressed worries about other issues, like trash and "becoming a destination." Potter said the idea of a shack may be a small operation now, but it is the "nose of the camel under the tent," and said it will disturb a quiet, peaceful community, and a lunch shack would poorly serve the community.

Liberati said the shack planners voluntarily acquired a larger trash receptacle because they noticed trash was overflowing and looking bad, and pointed out that they conceded to shorter operating hours. The commission said the original proposed hours were 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and the planners agreed to closing at 6 p.m.

Liberati said the first season of the shack, which could be this summer, will be a testing phase to see if the operation is even profitable.

After the meeting, Liberati said the restrictions are reasonable.

"I think we can live with them," he said. "This is a brand new property, so we really don't know what the future will bring."

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