YARDLEY BOROUGH >> A motion to appeal the zoning board’s decision granting the Taproom zoning relief to operate a restaurant died on the floor for lack of a second.
During the August 3 Yardley Borough Council meeting, President David Bria made the motion to appeal, citing the precedent it could set for the future.
“There’s been a lot of debate in this particular chamber by the zoning hearing and here at council,” said Bria. “Council has thought about this issue a lot. I know we’ve had some lively discussions in executive session.
“I personally thought about it a lot,” added Bria, “and, for me, this is not about the business because it’s a wonderful business. Decisions like this are about the long term planning and implications of zoning. Yardley has changed a lot in the last 10 years and I believe it’s going to change a lot in the next 10 years. We need to plan for that.”
Bria’s motion, however, never made it to the floor for a vote when no one else on council voted to second the motion.
The Yardley Borough Zoning Hearing Board on June 28 voted unanimously to grant the Vault permission to convert its tasting room at the Tannery on West College Avenue to a restaurant use.
The board’s approval came with a number of conditions, including the removal of its outdoor tent and the elimination of outdoor seating, extended night hours and outdoor music unless it secures a special events permit from the borough council.
The Taproom opened its doors in 2019 at the Tannery, a former industrial site converted into office use on West College Avenue, after securing approval to operate a brewery and a 40-plus seat tasting room as an accessory use.
The use allowed the Taproom to produce and bottle beer and to offer public tastings on site, which is zoned light industrial. It also allowed food to be brought in from the Vault, but did not allow it to be made on site.
Following the vote, Jim Cain, the Operations Manager of the Vault, expressed gratitude for the decision and to the residents and business owners who supported the application.
“I’m just relieved that it’s over. I’m very pleased with the decision and I’m optimistic we can improve our relationship with our adjacent neighbors,” said Cain.
Cain operates three successful businesses in town, including the Vault, the Taproom at the Tannery and Kawaii Tori Sushi, which will soon be relocating to the former State Store space at the Yardley Town Center on South Main Street.
Cain said he will be coverting the Taproom into a more traditional restaurant with an expanded kitchen and a barbecue smoker, but with no increase in its 49 seat occupancy.
“We are not asking for outdoor seating, no additional indoor seating and no changes to the customer experience,” Cain told the zoning board. “I’m looking at a 15 by 20 foot addition. We want to put in a hood, a grill and a barbecue smoker that’s accessed from the inside. It will be a fully functioning kitchen and food will be prepared on site and served fresh.”
While Cain said he’d no longer be using the tent and would eliminate outdoor seating and live outdoor music, he said he’d like the ability to seek a permit from the borough to hold special outdoor events during the year like an Oktoberfest.
“I think it would be really great for the community to hold an Oktoberfest up there,” he said. “It’s four acres of grass. It’s an amazing resource for the community.”
Cain said he hopes to submit building permits to the borough as early as this fall for the construction of a 200 square foot addition to its kitchen and the smoker.
He may, however, have to wait longer than that if neighboring residents follow through on their threat to appeal the decision.
Following the zoning decision, Van Horn resident Albert Celini said he plans to appeal the zoning board’s decision.
“I’m very disappointed with the zoning board’s mjishortsighted outcome here and we intend to appeal, to the furthest extent of the law, for what we feel is spot and situational zoning,” said Celini. “I’m very disappointed with the zoning board tonight.”
During remarks before the zoning board, Celini questioned how the borough could grant any appeals given that the property as a whole is under violation of borough stormwater and environmental ordinances.
“I don’t see how we can give consideration for any variances for a property until it’s under full resolution of violation. It should be period. Full stop.”
He also spoke to the relief being sought.
“The change from an accessory use as a tasting room to a restaurant use is a very significant change, one that I believe will cascade through the entire property,” said Celini. “If that is the case, we will have substantially changed the nature and character of the community, which is zoned residential all around it. This is a light industrial use property not zoned for restaurants. If you grant this variance, the whole property could become a food court.
“I’ve been very supportive of the Vault and we have no problems with a tasting room as an accessory use for a manufacturing facility. It was never intended to be used as a restaurant,” said Celini.