Bill Baker's, Emerald Iguana
get green light
by Chris Wilson
As Bill Baker's transforms into a full-scale restaurant this
summer, outdoor diners will be able to enjoy beer or wine with
their meal. And guests at the Emerald Iguana Inn will soon have
the luxury of renting rooms for just two days instead of the
required four, thanks to decisions made by the Ojai Planning
Commission at their meeting Wednesday evening.
Despite Interim Community Development Director Doug Hooper's
recommendation that alcohol not be allowed on the sidewalk so
near to Chaparral School, planning commissioners approved restaurant
owner Laurel Moore's waiver request.
"I like the concept of sitting on the sidewalk sipping a
glass of wine," Commissioner John Mirk said.
Commissioner Joe McAllister noted that both the Ojai Brew Pub
and California Fresh Fusion Grill serve alcohol outside, so why
not the restaurant sandwiched in between?
Hooper noted that CFFG is entirely
on private property and stated three times that the Brew Pub
serves alcohol outdoors without any permit or endorsement from
But it was the issue of modifying the conditional use permit
for the Emerald Iguana on North Blanche Street that packed council
chambers with Ojai residents.
Marc and Julia Whitman, owners of luxury, extended-stay hotel,
came before the commission to ask for a waiver because the required
four-day stay, as set forth in the 3-year-old CUP is, as they
said, a tight lid suffocating the business.
More than 20 speakers addressed the commission concerning the
Emerald Iguana's request. The majority praised the establishment
for its architectural beauty and overall benefit to the neighborhood
and the city.
Those in opposition to the proposed changes to the CUP included
Citizens to Preserve the Ojai members Rick Bisaccia and Stan
Greene, who said that traffic up and down Blanche Street had
increased dramatically and that the integrity of the neighborhood
was being compromised by the presence of strangers.
But supporters of the inn's request were in the majority. A stack
of supportive form letters, prepared by Emerald Iguana employee
Dusty Pelow, were backed by original letters of support from
other Ojai residents and business owners. And of the 20 speakers
who commented on the proposed CUP adjustment, only a handful
was in opposition.
"These complaints strike me as incredibly picky," commented
Leonard Klaif. "I can't imagine people complaining about
car doors slamming."
Ted Klein, who lives adjacent to the inn said, "to have
any complaints about this project, you should be ashamed of yourselves.
Did you see the place before? It was a dump. There were broken-down
cars, but did you ever hear anyone complain about that? No. I
don't notice any traffic difference." Klein's comments drew
a smattering of applause and a few shaking heads.
The commissioners' consensus followed the majority of the audience.
The public hearing will be continued until the commission meeting
of July 17 when Hooper will return with recommendations for approval
of the CUP changes.
Finally, Richard Keit and Mary Kennedy garnered the support of
the commission to go forward with purchasing the 1.7-acre property
at 1010 W. Ojai Ave across from Bronk Vreeland Ford. They plan
to expand their tile business there by building a 5,000 square
foot building to house their studio. For the past seven years
Keit and Kennedy have run their business out of a converted cottage
on Cañada Street.
Hooper aired concerns that zoning for the new property doesn't
allow for manufacturing product, but Keit argued that they are
hand craftsmen and don't employ machinery in their art. The commissioner
agreed, but commissioners Marge Faye and Tucker Adams did say
they thought the building looked massive from the plans and thought
perhaps Keit and Kennedy could tone it down.
Klaif spoke in favor of the plans.
"What they do is not manufacturing," Klaif said. "I
can't imagine that anyone will complain about this."
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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