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Plans for restaurant canceled, city cites parking issues

POLSON – A local couple have canceled plans to open a restaurant in town after the city cited parking issues.

Bill and Cynthia Barrett had planned to convert the building at 51145 U.S. Highway 93 that previously housed Great Clips into “Dude’s Place,” a restaurant featuring tapas, or “small plates,” food dishes, wine and beer. 

The 7,841-square-foot parcel is zoned Highway Commercial and has a 2,200-square-foot building.  

Bill Barrett withdrew a request for a variance during a Board of Adjustment meeting on Monday, July 10, when he faced opposition from the board. Barrett, who had 50 or so supporters attend the meeting with him, said he was disappointed in the lack of support from city staff and the Board of Adjustment and in how the meeting was run. 

In an emailed statement on Sunday, Bill Barrett said the couple canceled their plan because they believe that the obstacles and conditions the city was imposing were unrealistic and posed additional financial and regulatory burdens on them. 

“We understand the city has the need and the right to promulgate reasonable regulations, but in my opinion, the adversarial culture within the city created a hostile environment that we did not expect,” he said, adding that the couple still has to work with the city to remodel the building. “We are hopeful our experience in that process will be more positive,” he said.

During last week’s meeting City Planner Kyle Roberts had recommended the variance be approved with five conditions, however that would have required the Barretts to lease adjoining property from the Montana Department of Transportation.

Prior to his Sunday email, Bill Barrett said he was working on a lease for two small parcels in front of and behind the triangular-shaped property that he and his wife purchased in January. The front parcel would have been a “landscaping lease” for a grassy knoll, while the back parcel would have been for a “parking lease.” 

The city originally wanted Barrett to have 20 parking spaces but later agreed on 15. 

A July 5 site plan submitted by Barrett’s attorney Matthew H. O’Neill shows four parking spaces north of the building, two in front and 14 in the back. The latter would have been located on MDOT property adjacent to a bike path. 

Barrett said he and his wife had been looking for a location for a restaurant for several years since they developed a food plan based on a study of patrons at Glacier Brewing Co. The study called for small-sized tasty appetizers and wood-fired pizzas, which Barrett said one must currently travel to Missoula or Kalispell to purchase. 

According to a staff report, the Polson Development Code requires that a restaurant have one parking space for every 100 square feet of gross floor area, or 22 spaces. A bike rack could be used to replace one parking space. The Barretts proposed 15 spaces based on usable floor area – not counting dry storage and freezer space, for example – of 1,600 square feet. The city agreed but had a concern about vehicles being able to maneuver through the parking lot. Roberts also expressed concerns about the four parking spaces to the north of the building being too short and requiring drivers to back up onto South Bayshore Drive. 

The Barretts purchased the property from Sterling Properties LLC and sole member Heather G. Vines on Jan. 4. Barrett said escrow closed three weeks after the city adopted a new development code.

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