New food concessions, conversion of house to store at brewery discussed by planners

by Dan McClelland
Exactly where Mark Jessie and Joe Hockey, the owners of the very popular brewery, Raquette River Brewing, will place up to four new food truck concessions, was the fodder of discussion at December's planning board meeting.
That evening there was a very brief public hearing on the brewery owners' plan to retrofit the white clapboard house at 137 Main Street into a ground floor store with offices on the second floor.  No one appeared at the hearing and Planner Paul O'Leary reported he had received no comments from the public on the issue, since the hearing date was announced earlier that month.
For the past two years the brewery has been selling a copious amount of brewery souvenirs- hats, shirts, mugs, etc.  The small corner of the bar area is jammed with items for sale, so opening up the ground floor of 137 Main for a new brewery store would permit the partners to expand their souvenir inventories and display them better.
When the regular portion of the meeting convened, planning board member Jim Merrihew asked Mr. Hockey, who was present that evening, if he and his partner had finalized any of their plans to add four new concessions to their operation and park them along Balsam Ave.
At an earlier meeting when the store idea was proposed to the planners, Mr. Hockey had also noted the rearrangement and the increase of the food concessions on their site.  Up to now the only food truck on site was the pulled pork and barbecue concession operated for the past two years by Don Vaillancourt. This fall Mr. Vaillancourt decided to move his mobile operations to a southern state, where the outdoor cooking and barbecue seasons are much longer.
“Will these be placed on your land or on the village right of way?” Mr. Merrihew asked Mr. Hockey.
Mr. Hockey said there have been no specific sites set yet for the concessions, and they are waiting to hear back from the village and its attorney.
He noted earlier that their company would be arranging to have the utilities for the new concessionaires installed along Balsam Ave.
“So should we approach this as if the food trailers will end up on your property?” Mr. Merrihew continued.  “-And then the village (board) can decide if they are permitted on the street right of way!”
Planning board chairman Shawn Stuart reminded Mr. Merrihew the food concessions were not part of the matter at hand that evening. “Tonight's hearing only involves the plans for the house” at 137 Main Street, he told him.
That being said, Mr. Merrihew told Mr. Hockey  they would have to return to the planners for “the food trailer positioning” issue.
The chairman wasn't so sure about that. “Whether or not these temporary structures are placed in the street's right of way or not is a village issue that doesn't involve this board.”
Planner Paul O'Leary noted, however, if the village board denies the brewers the use of the street's right of way, they would have to apply to the planning board before situating them on the side and back lawns of the 137 Main Street property.
“It would be a new use,” he told the board members.  He said too the village board may seek a recommendation from the planning board on the wisdom of placing the mobile units on the village right of way of Balsam Street.
Mr. Hockey said their plans call for situating the electric, sewer and water utilities on the 137 Main Street property for use by the new concessionaires.
Planning board member Dave St. Onge wondered if an electric line could be run from the house.
Mr. Hockey said there used to be an old mobile home at the rear of the property and the various utility lines are still in place.  He said village superintendents Mark Robillard and Marc Staves had assured them the services could be tapped from there.  He also noted that the utilities would be separately metered at each mobile food concession.
He noted, as an aside, that Jim and Kelly Facteau, owners of the Marketplace on Route 3&30 have “already committed” to placing a food truck there.
“They plan to make a substantial investment in a trailer and they need a decision,” he added.
These mobile rigs, much like the state of the art one Don Vaillancourt had built several years ago, take between four and six months to produce after they are ordered, Mr. Hockey told the planners.
Village Code Enforcement Officer Peter Edwards said if the village permits the food trailers to be situated on the Balsam St. right of way, the owners would only need to apply to  his office for a routine vendor's permit.  “They would be treated like any other vendor who comes to town!”
A vendor's permit could be issued in less than a week, he promised.
Mr. Merrihew said he really liked the plan to situate the new parking lot at the rear of the 137 Main Street lot and run a new exit along the perimeter of the parcel to come out on Main Street at the house's existing driveway.  Mr. St. Onge also liked the traffic routing plan.
Shawn Stuart wondered if they had approached the state Department of Transportation about that traffic plan and Mr. Hockey said they had and were told by DOT officials that providing there was no construction on the state highway right of way, it was not considered “a permitable project.”
Mr. Stuart asked about any plans for a handicapped accessible entrance to the new store and was told a ramp would be built along the side of the building.
Asked about a front awning, Mr. Hockey said the exterior of the house would be repainted and remodeled in keeping with the overall design of the brewery buildings.
The house's clapboard exterior and trim will be the same shades as the other nearby buildings.
The only new structural changes planned, in addition to the handicapped ramps, would be “repairs to the front porch,” he told the planners.
On a motion by Bob Collier, seconded by Doug Bencze, the special use permit for the house conversion was unanimously approved by the planners.
Following the approval Mr. Hockey noted that if for some reason the village board won't approve putting the food concessions on the village street- admitting he doesn't anticipate that- then a new plan would be submitted for situating them on his new property at 137 Main.
He noted that the issue must be resolved one way or the other very soon out of respect the  Facteaus and any other concessionaire who have considerable work to do before the start of the summer season.
Bob Collier said in the event the village didn't approve of parking them on the street, he didn't anticipate any problem issuing the brewers the permit to place them on the 137 Main Street property.
“Would it require another hearing?” he asked Planner O'Leary who guessed it might.
That prompted Jim Merrihew to explain  that it was his intention to avoid unnecessary delays when he made the comment  earlier in the meeting about “pretending” the trucks were going on his property.
Mr. O'Leary said he would confer with Attorney Kirk Gagnier on the need for a second hearing and if one was needed it could be scheduled for the January meeting to save the applicants a month's time.
The use of the right of way decision must come from the village as soon as possible, it was noted by Mr. St. Onge.