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Volleyball, bar plan will return to city council

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
October 28, 2009
— The president of Sara Investment Real Estate said Tuesday that he will bring a proposal to open a bar and attached volleyball court back to the Janesville City Council.

But before he does, he wanted to meet again with neighbors who opposed the idea in an effort to find common ground.


No matter what company representatives said Tuesday, it didn't appear to change anyone's minds.


Sara Investments owns the building where Matt DeWitt and Kim Brown want to open Sneakers Bar & Grill in the former Basics Co-op on Woodman Road off Milton Avenue. The property is zoned properly.


The council recently voted down the proposal on a 3–3 vote after seven residents worried about noise, trash, traffic, drunken patrons and falling property values. Council member Russ Steeber was absent, and other council members told DeWitt he could bring the issue back before the council.


The city's alcohol license committee and plan commission both gave the proposal positive recommendations, although the plan commission would not allow outdoor lighting or music; required volleyball to finish by 9 p.m., and closed the patio at midnight.


Council members George Brunner and Tom McDonald were present at Tuesday's meeting. Both voted against the bar.


Seven or eight residents have protested the project in front of all three city bodies. On Tuesday, another five spoke in favor of the venture. At times, participants were loud and testy.


One neighbor who spoke in favor of the bar left in tears.


"I would be willing to bet that most of the people here not in favor are elderly people," said one man.


"These people have been here for 40, 50 years of their lives," said another, noting the well-kept homes. "You're saying you should take precedent over all these people?" he asked Brown.


"I'm going to be watching every single little move, and everything I don't like, I'm calling the police," warned another.


"We welcome that," said a Sara representative.


Said another woman: "All the neighbors are going to be constantly complaining."


"I'd rather listen to the bar music than listen to the cars squealing all down Milton Avenue," one man said.


Another said he would welcome a neighborhood bar.


Sara representatives told residents they would work to get a stop sign on the corner of Woodman Road and Mayfair Drive to stop cars that speed through the neighborhood now. They also assured neighbors they would respond immediately to any complaints; offer monthly meetings, and encourage bar patrons to exit on Milton Avenue.


They also said they would plant trees to screen the building and cut down noise.


But when the meeting ended, one woman asked:


"What don't you understand about ‘no?'"


Sara President Eric Schwartz told the group that he believed his company, which has invested all over Janesville, came up with creative ideas to placate residents.


"We will pay attention like we've never paid attention before," he promised.


Then, he noted the struggling economy, saying Brown and DeWitt, a laid-off General Motors employee, "are willing to stick their toes in the water even with everything that's against them, including you guys …


"Our company put $500,000 of improvements in that building. I can lay awake at night over $500,000.


"There's nobody in line behind them."



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