There’s a lot happening on North Person Street these days: the bustling Person Street Bar, the always-hip Station restaurant, The Pelagic bottle shop around the corner. So it’s no surprise that chef Scott Crawford, a five-time James Beard Award semifinalist, wants to expand his presence in the historic Oakwood neighborhood.
Crawford asked Raleigh for permission to put a rooftop dining area atop Jolie, the French bistro he plans to open adjacent to his acclaimed Crawford and Son.
When his proposal came before the city’s Board of Adjustment on March 11, only one person spoke against it.
She owns a nearby 682-square-foot condo, which she purchased for $117,000 in 2011, but she doesn’t live there. Instead, she rents it out, and she was worried that her tenant might be bothered by the noise.
But she wasn’t just any landlord. She was Stef Mendell, a Raleigh City Council member. This wasn’t in her district—she lives in and represents District E, in North Raleigh—but she still wanted to make her views known.
In 2017, the city council adopted a code of conduct to prevent council members from interfering with its commissions and boards. Council members are discouraged from even attending meetings, because “the mere presence of a council member … may affect the board or commission and interfere with its function.”
In other words, the board may feel pressured to do what the council member wants.
But because Mendell owns property nearby, that rule doesn’t apply in this case, says city attorney Robin Tatum Currin.
“I don’t think I give up my rights as a property owner to weigh in on things just because I’m on city council,” Mendell told the INDY Friday. (Mendell also bristled at being asked about this matter, questioning whether this story was going to be a “hit piece” and saying “somebody has a grudge against me or something.”)
Mendell was the only person at the BOA meeting concerned about noise. On the other hand, the only Oakwood resident present spoke in favor of the project, saying Crawford has “been a good neighbor,” according to meeting minutes.
Council member Corey Branch, whose District C includes Oakwood, says he wasn’t aware of any concerns. “If there was an issue, someone would have definitely called,” Branch says. “I haven’t heard anything or any complaints. Nothing about it.”
Even so, the BOA imposed conditions on the project that Mendell says made her“perfectly happy.”
To get his rooftop bar, Crawford can’t have amplified music and must adhere to an 11:00 p.m. curfew—neither of which is likely a huge deal, considering that Jolie will be a high-end restaurant and not a nightclub. (Crawford and Son closes at ten.) But Crawford, who did not respond to requests for comment, also has to erect an eight-foot-tall wood-board-screen fence around the rooftop. It’s unclear how much that will cost.
Eric Hodge, the city’s assistant planning administrator, says the board might have imposed those conditions regardless of Mendell’s input. Judson Root, the BOA’s vice chairman, deferred questions to the BOA’s attorney, Josh Silverstein.
“I’m not a voting member, so it’s hard to say why conditions were put on by individuals, but I think since the conditions were intended to protect neighboring properties from any noise that might come from the use of the outdoor dining space, I would think that [Mendell’s] interests were served in that way,” Silverstein says.
“I don’t personally live in the condo, but the person who does live there has been impacted by noise coming from The Station, which is kind of across the street, so I had concerns from that and just for the neighborhood in general,” Mendell says.
Indeed, Mendell also had concerns about a rooftop bar that didn’t directly affect her property. Last year, she sided with residents of The Paramount in Glenwood South, who complained that a new boutique hotel’s planned rooftop bar would ruin their view of the downtown skyline.
The debate, which stretched on for a year, got heated during a public meeting when council members sought to micromanage the rooftop’s design and Mendell pushed for even more negotiations with the condo’s homeowners association.
Fed up, developer Anuj Mittal vented his frustrations: “At this point in time—I think we’ve been at this for a year—there is no desire on our part to continue any dialogue with the Paramount HOA. We’ve given everything, every square inch possible, there is no limit. … I’m not going to put two cows up there grazing. There’s only so much you can do in a hospitality business.”
Eventually, Mittal got the hotel approved, but with one less story than he wanted and with limitations on light and noise on the roof.
Contact staff writer Leigh Tauss by email at email@example.com, by phone at 919-832-8774, or on Twitter @leightauss.
Scott Crawford is indeed an excellent neighbor who has worked sincerely to address potential noise issues. Stef Mendell is an excellent City Councilor who works hard to help businesses and residences to coexist in harmony. Eric Hodge is an excellent City staffperson. He received input from several neighbors, including our liaison Louis Stamm, and helped craft a good solution. The screening fence will not be “around the rooftop,” but only on the east side, where residences are just across a driveway from the building. This is an example of the City government working as it should! (Yes, it took a while for Jolie to get its variances, but there were other issues beside potential noise.) Of course Councilor Corey Branch never received any complaints. There has been no reason to complain! By way of background, there have been two other venues nearby that were so loud residents could not sleep at night! Scott Crawford and Stef Mendell and Eric Hodge and the nearby neighbors wanted to prevent a recurrence of those situations. We in Oakwood love all the wonderful businesses nearby, but we also want to sleep at night. Thank you, City of Raleigh, for making this work for all! –Matthew Brown, president, Society for the Preservation of Historic Oakwood
The comments by Mr. Stamm and Brown here suggest that council member Mendell’s prediction were well-founded. The additional context provided, including from someone who is cited in the Indy story no less, significantly changes the story in my opinion. It even suggests – gasp! – things worked out best for all concerned with no drama or real controversy and certainly nothing untoward. Indy’s continued biased reporting is disappointing. That it’s not going unnoticed, at least, is notable. Thank you to mssrs Stamm and Brown for painting a more complete picture than the reporter chose to in writing the story.
In regards to the recent article in the Indy regarding Scott Crawfords new restaurant Jolie I would like to take this opportunity to clarify some points.
I am the resident that noted that Scott Crawford has been a good neighbor and stood up for Jolie as well as Phillip Bernard of the Person Street Partnership. I live two houses behind Crawford and Son and would be one of the first affected by any late evening noise. I am the also the resident liaison for the Person Street Partnership and Society for the Preservation of Historic Oakwood
Officially, the Application of Variance was sent to residents on Dec 4, 2018. There was dialogue prior to that time when the resident first learned that 620 N. Person would be taken over by Mr. Crawford for Jolie and a roof deck possibly added. I have no official dated documentation prior to 12-4-18 but recall that Crawford had hoped for a holiday opening for a return on his investment. There had been another issue earlier for that building regarding storefront face that was easily addressed.
Scott Crawford, Phillip Bernard, myself and other residents spoke and addressed our concerns during Person Street Partnership meetings prior to the February and March BOA meetings. I personally spoke to Eric Hodge via phone sometime in January about the residents’ concerns.
Prior to the BOA meeting in March, I happened to be sitting across the aisle from Stef Mendell and over heard her speaking to an attorney for Louis Cheery / Scott Crawford about her noise concerns, I introduced myself and told them that I would be speaking for approval of the variance and advised them of the prior conversations and discussions. As an owner her concerns were legitimate, not unfounded, sincere and the same as the residents that reside in the neighborhood. When we both spoke before the board, our acceptance was based on the conditions that were debated and discussed.
Mr. Branch was not aware of any neighborhood concerns because all parties had in good faith been transparent and addressed issues and concerns together earlier. I did not bring this up at the BOA as there is a time limit for rebuttal. I mentioned that Scott Crawford had been a good neighbor because of his willingness to work with the residents and be open to discussion. There were several concerns from the residents, all addressed prior to the BOA.
It would serve the author, and readers, of this post well to learn what type of hearing was occurring at the BOA meeting and the process by which approval is granted.
Regardless, Mendell is a pretty dumb council member and I can’t imagine being her tenant.
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