Sneakers gets go-ahead from Janesville council

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009
— The owners of Sneaker’s Sports Bar and Grill will start work today after the city council on Monday approved a proposal for the bar and attached volleyball courts.

Kim Brown said she and Matt DeWitt would run their first volleyball leagues next summer.

The council in October voted down a liquor license for the bar proposal on a 3-3 vote, with neighbors swaying the vote by citing worry about noise, traffic and drunken patrons.

But council members said Brown and DeWitt could bring the request back because council member Russ Steeber had been absent for the first vote.

Both the city’s alcohol license committee and plan commission had recommended approval in October. However, the plan commission’s OK hinged on no volleyball being played past 9 p.m. and no additional outdoor lighting being added.

The bar will be located in the former Basics Co-op building at 1221 Woodman Road, within about 250 feet of residences and near Milton Avenue and the city’s youth baseball diamonds.

After the first vote, representatives of Sara Investment Real Estate, which owns the building, met with neighbors to discuss their concerns. The representatives offered to plant more and bigger trees and add additional traffic control.

Monday, the vote was 4-2 in favor of the proposal with Steeber, Kathy Voskuil, Frank Perrotto and Yuri Rashkin voting yes. George Brunner and Tom McDonald voted no, and council President Bill Truman was absent. Truman voted no at the first vote.

Another change this time was that the number of residents speaking in favor of the bar was about equal to those who spoke against it.

Council members said neighbors had valid concerns, though some were exaggerated.

Perrotto said the people from Sara Investment did a good job of addressing concerns, including an offer to hold monthly meetings with neighbors.

“Overall, I think they are making a very, very strong attempt to be good neighbors,” he said.

Rashkin agreed, saying the bar’s owners deserve the chance to succeed or fail. He said it sounds as if the neighborhood doesn’t want a bar there, regardless of what Sara Investment might offer.

Steeber said the vote was the most difficult he’s ever made.

“I can tell you that I have gone back and forth so many times it makes me dizzy,” he said.

Steeber said the issue divided the community and was similar to the passionate opposition from neighbors when Sam’s Club and Walmart Supercenter wanted to build near Briar Crest Subdivision.

“I think some of the fears and the concerns brought forward are the fear of the unknown, and that is always worse than reality,” Steeber said.

Steeber said one speaker threatened that neighbors would call police at the least infraction. He cautioned neighbors not to become overly sensitive because there is a point when calls to police would be seen as frivolous.

“We don’t want to have any neighbors start crying ‘wolf’ and (when needed) the response could be less than what it needs to be,” he said.

Voskuil lives in the Walmart neighborhood and said most of the neighbors are pleased with how it currently exists. She asked the bars’ future neighbors to give it a chance.

“Keep an open mind, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised,” she predicted.

Brunner and McDonald did not change their votes.

“It’s important that you live up to what you’re telling the neighbors you’re going to do,” Brunner told the bars owners. “I wish I could support it. I can’t, simply because I think it’s gone from something I thought it was going to be to something entirely different.

“I’m not sure it’s a right fit next to a residential neighborhood.”

Last updated: 11:53 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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