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Commission votes against ‘airlock’


By a narrow 5 to 4 vote, Farragut Municipal Planning Commission decided eatery Sam and Andy’s must make its airlock, built on the sidewalk in Aspen Square shopping center, conform to Town codes, or remove it.

“There is no ordinance in the town of Farragut that says we can’t have an airlock here,” Aspen Properties representative Patrick Ham said.

Community Development Direc-tor Ruth Hawk agreed, but said the sidewalk was considered a common area and should not be obstructed.

“There are certain things that are discretionary, and this is an example,” Hawk told Commissioners.


“That is all based on opinion, and opinion is not law,” Ham said, mentioning a petition Sam and Andy’s customers had signed to keep the airlock.

Mayor Eddy Ford said, “I think it’s appropriate to keep the airlock,” which has been in place for almost two years.

Commissioner Ed St. Clair agreed, asking commissioners to consider this situation as an individual and unique case.

“I don’t have any problem at all with an airlock in this situation,” he said.

“We’re not just making a decision for this one business,” Rita Holladay said, asking commissioners how many other variances for airlocks could be expected if they granted one to Sam and Andy’s.

Ham told commissioners that moving the airlock indoors, as it is in neighboring restaurant El Mezcal, would either cause “significant” renovations or a safety issue. Besides the approximate $8,000 price tag of moving the airlock indoors, Sam and Andy’s would lose about four tables.

According to Ham, that translates to more than $138,000 lost per year by moving the airlock inside the restaurant.

“You’ve got to look at all the facts … this is a real-life situation,” Ham said.

“We don’t have the luxury, as a Board, to make decisions based upon good times and bad times,” Ron Honken said.

“We have to make decisions based on the merit of the issue at hand, not the economic times we live in,” he added.

FMPC Chair Bob Hill said leaving the airlock as-is would set a bad precedent.

“Not having the airlock is not going to kill their business because they have good products,” Hill said.

“They were very successful before they ever thought up the idea of an airlock,” he added.

In the end, Ham was told he could draw up a site plan for extending the sidewalk around the airlock for FMPC’s April meeting.

“I can support it if the public space is recreated,” Connie Rutenber said.

“The airlock stays in place until they make a decision [to remove the airlock] or resubmit a site plan,” Ford said.

 

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