Veloce, barred

By LIAM MAYO
Posted 4/26/22

TUSTEN, NY — The opening of Bar Veloce remains out of sight, nearly two years after the project first came before the Tusten Planning Board.

Bar Veloce, a cheese-and-wine franchise, first …

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Veloce, barred

Posted

TUSTEN, NY — The opening of Bar Veloce remains out of sight, nearly two years after the project first came before the Tusten Planning Board.

Bar Veloce, a cheese-and-wine franchise, first came to Narrowsburg in 2020. Owner Frederick Twomey looked to purchase the building at 174 Bridge St., which had been owned and occupied by Narrowsburg Motors, a third-generation car dealership and service station owned by Kathleen Johnson. The plan was to put a Bar Veloce location on that building’s first floor.

Two years on, disputes about the renovation of that building have led to the opening’s indefinite delay.

A second-floor sortie

One dispute impacting Bar Veloce’s opening involves a rooftop deck.

When Bar Veloce first sought permission from the planning board, it only sought approvals to use the first floor of the building for that purpose.

Several applications made to other bodies involved in the project’s oversight, some of which were submitted during the planning board process, included plans to construct a rooftop bar.

An initial application to the State Liquor Authority (SLA) on July 30, 2020, regarding its 30-day municipal notice, indicated plans to have a rooftop bar. The Tusten Town Board voted to waive the 30-day waiting period on August 11, 2020. The building permit application sent to the Tusten building department on September 15, 2020 indicated the same, saying there would be “car sales and service at [the] lower level and café on [the] first floor and roof.”

Town supervisor Ben Johnson (husband of Kathleen Johnson) wrote a letter of no objection to Twomey on October 8, 2020, confirming for the SLA that the town had waived the 30-day waiting period for the liquor license and had approved Bar Veloce to operate as a food and drink establishment. It stated that the maximum occupancy of 174 Bridge St. was 203, including 136 for a roof deck; according to Johnson, that information was provided by the building department, and Johnson provided it in response to a question asked by Twomey.

That letter was provided to the SLA as proof of a certificate of occupancy (CoO) allowing Bar Veloce to receive its liquor license on July 12, 2021, say neighbors Kathy and Brendan Weiden, who talked with an SLA representative in the process of submitting Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests to the SLA.

Bar Veloce did not receive its CoO until October 5, 2021, and that CoO only covered the first floor of the building. According to the CoO, the use of a rooftop deck for a food and drink establishment was not approved by the planning board, and the building permit was not issued for such.

According to the planning board minutes from its September 28, 2021 meeting, Bar Veloce needed a new special use permit application as well as engineer and board reviews for use of the roof. The minutes for planning board meetings after that date do not show that Bar Veloce applied for such a permit.

A first-floor fricassee

With its CoO, Bar Veloce was able to open for business, as long as it roped off the stairs to the rooftop bar. It has not yet done so, and while it has remained unopened, a separate dispute is ongoing over the propriety of the first floor construction.

The Weidens, owners of the Narrowsburg Union, a neighboring business, appealed the CoO at a February 14 meeting of the Tusten Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA). They pointed out a number of irregularities in Bar Veloce’s applications as grounds for the appeal.

The core question concerned the amount of construction involved. The Weidens alleged that Bar Veloce was originally approved for a 30x30 square-foot café or a bar of 980 square feet, depending on the documentation consulted, and that final construction included the entire first floor, for a total of approximately 2,700 square feet. Twomey has counterclaimed that the entire first floor was approved as part of construction.

The ZBA ultimately agreed to hear the case and determined to hear presentations from Bar Veloce and from Jim Crowley, the town’s code enforcement officer and building inspector, at a March 14 meeting.

Before that meeting could take place, Twomey filed an Article 78 proceeding, appealing the ZBA’s authority to hear the case on a number of technical grounds. Judge Mark Meddaugh in the Sullivan County Supreme Court issued a stay on the ZBA’s hearing, on the condition that Bar Veloce not open for business while that stay proceeded.

That case is currently awaiting determination.

A parking palaver

Both disputes—concerning the first and the second floors—are being conducted under the shadow of broader concerns about parking in Tusten’s downtown business district.

The building at 174 Bridge St. has limited parking available; the number of spaces claimed in that building’s lot is inconsistent between documents, and is in the vicinity of 10 to 20. The planning board raised parking as a concern in initial meetings on the project, before it knew about the rooftop bar and the extra capacity thereby offered, and it raised further concerns at its September 28, 2021 meeting.

Parking has been a core concern in the Weidens’ appeal of the project. They have alleged (and Twomey has contested) that, in the absence of sufficient parking, Bar Veloce customers will, without permission, use the Narrowsburg Union’s private lot, and have done so during a number of events at Bar Veloce in 2020.  

Bar Veloce has maintained throughout its application process that it has agreements with its neighbors, the Narrowsburg Inn and the St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, to share their parking lots. The planning board stated in its initial meetings that having an agreement with a neighboring business was not sufficient.

Tusten’s draft local zoning law currently under review includes revisions to its parking regulations, revisions that include the option of waiving parking requirements partly or wholly in the downtown business district, or the option of shared parking agreements between private businesses.

According to consultant Peter Manning, who advised the town’s zoning committee on the draft local zoning law, the majority of the section was drafted years ago; the subsection that allows for a whole or partial waiver was drafted the previous year. The law is one of a number of efforts within Tusten to address the issue of parking, he said, with the need for parking being included in the town’s comprehensive plan and being addressed with the establishment of a parking committee.   

“The need for more parking in Narrowsburg is longstanding,” said Manning. And more than zoning is needed to address the issue. “As a land-use regulatory tool there’s only so much that zoning can do in addressing the need for parking—it’s in place to manage parking; yet the creation or finding of parking capacity continues to be a need of the whole community.”

The Weidens own the parcel of undeveloped land that envelops Bar Veloce; they say they have never been approached by Bar Veloce with a request to purchase land to construct more parking.

‘Bar Veloce’ as used in this article refers colloquially to the business entities and partners attempting to establish a food and drink establishment in the upper floor(s) of 174 Bridge St., and is not the legal designation of that business. There are two primary entities involved: Upper Delaware Hospitality Corporation, which owns 174 Bridge St., and FT 174 Bridge Street Inc. DBA Bar Veloce, which runs the Bar Veloce in that location.

Frederick Twomey declined a request to speak with the River Reporter for this article, citing pending litigation.

For more reporting on this issue, see below:

https://riverreporter.com/stories/the-mercy-of-the-arbitrators,52439?

https://riverreporter.com/stories/whats-going-on-with-bar-veloce,53710?

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