North Tisbury restaurant will reopen
Much to the delight of many up-Islanders, Deon's Restaurant in North Tisbury, heavily damaged by fire last fall, will be torn down and replaced with a new restaurant, scheduled to open next summer. After a series of negotiations with the West Tisbury Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), the prospective new owners, Mary and Jackson Kenworth, have been granted a special permit for a slightly larger building on the same basic footprint. No name for the new restaurant has yet been released. The Kenworths operate the Slice of Life Restaurant in Oak Bluffs.
The Kenworths' application was heard by the ZBA on July 2, 17, and 23. They originally asked for an expansion from Deon's 1,583 square feet (sq. ft.) to more than 2,500. Although the site, in a residential-agricultural district, is not zoned for a business, there has continuously been a restaurant there since long before zoning was enacted in 1972. Old-timers still remember Hortense Haynes's ice cream stand, and others of varying ages remember Fat Tony's, Tony's Garden, the Red Cat, Icehouse, Bittersweet, and most recently Deon's. The town zoning bylaw would allow a "grandfathered" use, but not an expansion of that previous space beyond 2,000 sq. ft.
After a series of debates, the Kenworths and the ZBA reached what ZBA administrator Julie Keefe described as "your basic compromise." Ms. Keefe told The Times this week, "While the ZBA tries to help people do what they want to do, it has to operate within the zoning bylaw."
According to a draft decision obtained by The Times yesterday, the building may be re-constructed "up to its pre-existing, non-conforming size of 2,154 sq. ft." To reach that figure, the ZBA, after some debate, decided to include 571 square feet of basement which previous restaurants had used (perhaps illegally) as "other than storage" (office and staff) spaces. In the new building, "The basement will be for storage and a 25 sq. ft. employee bathroom." The ZBA also ruled, "The existing shed on the property will be expanded to 504 sq. ft. for office space."
There was considerable argument on how much seating capacity should be allowed. While most who spoke at the hearings applauded the Kenworths' plans, the objections to more seats were based on neighbors' fears of excessive noise. The ZBA draft decision notes, "Board of Health records show a history of the restaurant being permitted to have 60 and more seats. Since 2000, the ZBA has required Special Permits for any changes in administration and conditioned that the number of seats be limited to 44 due to a history of noise and other complaints from the neighbors." This week's ZBA draft decision approves plans for 60 seats, but attaches several conditions to limit noise.
The ZBA decision may be appealed with 20 days of its filing with the town clerk (July 30).