Pub battle heads to court

An architect’s rendition shows the proposed pub addition (to the right of the current building) as viewed from Eagle Harbor, with the condominiums behind. - Courtesy of Harbour Public House
An architect’s rendition shows the proposed pub addition (to the right of the current building) as viewed from Eagle Harbor, with the condominiums behind.
— image credit: Courtesy of Harbour Public House

Neighbors try to block expansion of the popular eatery and watering hole.

The Harbour Public House has long been a place where islanders go to bat around the issues of the day over their favorite frothy pint.

But not all arguments can be resolved on a barstool. For many of the pub’s neighbors, a planned expansion of the popular watering hole is about as appealing as heated hefeweizen.

It is that negative sentiment that has led finally to a court battle between the two sides, with the case set to go to trial this week in Kitsap Superior Court.

“When they built the pub, they said it would be a quiet atmosphere with classical music,” said David MacKenzie, who lives next door in the Harbourside Condominiums. “That’s not what it’s turned into.”

Pub owners Jeff and Jocelyn Waite want to build an adjoining, adults-only bar east of the existing building on Parfitt Way, and turn the existing establishment into a family dining eatery allowing patrons under age 21.

Neighbors at the condominiums, who have complained about parking problems at the pub as well as noise from patrons, delivery trucks and the kitchen’s exhaust system, filed suit last spring to stop the expansion, which they believe will only exacerbate current conditions.

The lawsuit alleges that the proposed expansion violates an agreement reached by the pub and the condominium owners association in 1989.

At that time, Jocelyn’s father, Jim Evans, owned the pub and helped negotiate the agreement.

Part of the plan was to build a two-story, single-family residence with commercial space on the first floor where the proposed pub expansion now would be built.

“The building we want to build is similar structurally to what we agreed upon before,” said Jeff Waite. “We’ve tried to work it out on our own without success. They say good fences make good neighbors, but I don’t know if everyone feels that way in this case.”

Waite said the new expansion would be 10 percent to 15 percent bigger in area than the originally proposed structure, but slightly lower in height so as not to obstruct views from the condominiums.

MacKenzie said the original agreement didn’t allow for the type of use pub owners are talking about now.

“There’s already inadequate parking and escalating noise,” MacKenzie said. “A lot of residents here feel like the pub no longer matches the character of the neighborhood. This expansion would only make things worse.”

Waite said he’s sympathetic to many of the issues raised by his neighbors, but believes the expansion would alleviate noise, not worsen it.

“The new configuration would actually shift some of the noise problems to the other side of the property and away from the condominiums,” he said. “Parking is a difficult situation for everyone and as we move forward, the city keeps redefining the parking requirements.”

That brings up the larger issue of parking in Winslow’s business core.

The city is working on a new parking ordinance to accommodate downtown growth and mesh with the Winslow Tomorrow planning initiative.

The city may reduce parking requirements for new businesses to two or three parking spaces per thousand square feet – down from the current requirement of four spaces – to allow redevelopment on downtown properties.

Parfitt residents, including those at the Harbourside, say they are already fed up with the lack of parking and fear the new ordinance would worsen their problems.

“It’s idiotic in our view,” MacKenzie said. “We don’t feel we should be lumped in with the downtown core. Parking everywhere is overburdened, it’s not just here. People aren’t going to park at Town & Country and walk to the pub.”

But while the city is considering easing parking requirements in Winslow, planners are requiring more spaces for an expanded pub.

City planner Bob Katai, who is in charge of crafting the new ordinance, said the parking situation at the pub falls under a special case provision.

Katai said on-street parking and the arrangement of the current parking lot, which the pub shares with the condominium residents, are among the special factors. The lot has 44 spaces, but during busy periods at the pub, parking often spills out on to Parfitt Way.

Had the city not designated the pub a special case, the expansion would only require two new parking spaces. Instead, 14 new parking spaces would be required.

Waite has haggled with the city over interpretation of the parking code, and has also proposed construction of a parking garage beneath the current garden between the pub and the condominiums.

Several neighbors have petitioned against the idea, but the city has yet to respond to the proposal.

Waite said he’s also considered sharing parking with the office space to the east of his property, which is usually vacant at night, but logistics would make it difficult to execute.

“That would be a good option,” Waite said, “But I’d have to negotiate leases with 10 different owners so it isn’t likely to happen.”

In the meantime, both sides await the outcome of the court case and the parking ordinance, both of which will influence the future of Parfitt Way.

“There are young kids on this street who wait for the bus in the morning and a lot of older people as well,” MacKenzie said. “I’m 64, but around here I’m a spring chicken. This has been going on for years. We just want the situation to be resolved.”

Waite also wants a resolution.

“A lot has been said over the years about this,” he said. “I don’t want to make enemies with any of our neighbors – they’re the people that keep our business alive.

“I’m trying to take care of my livelihood.”

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