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NEW BUFFALO — The New Buffalo Planning Commission approved a site plan for a proposed restaurant at 1 North Whittaker St. at a special meeting Nov. 16.

According to a report by City Building Officials staff Ted Hanson, the proposed site plan for the building at 1 North Whittaker in the Central Business District (which currently houses a pharmacy but is otherwise vacant) calls for its renovation to several future tenants. including a restaurant.

The request was made by Chicago real estate owner Damon Marano and presented by local architect William McCollum, who is also a member of the Planning Commission but recused himself from the 4-0 approval vote.

An earlier site plan for the building called for moving some exterior walls for an expanded outdoor seating area partially on city property, but the new proposal maintains the perimeter of the structure where it is while adding a series of “all around” windows to let light and enhance its appearance.

McCollum said some of the existing stone veneer will be retained, “but most of it will disappear.” He later said the pharmacy’s drive-thru would also remain in place.

McCollum said the restaurant will take up 50% of the first floor (in addition to a pair of retail spaces and the pharmacy indicating where it is unchanged), and another seating area in the basement for the restaurant and a prep kitchen have been added to the site plan.

Adding more seating requires 12 additional parking spaces, and McCollum said they are proposing that these be located in the 90-space parking lot across US 12 that has been included in plans for previous sites such as the Beer Church. Another option was to pave a nearby vacant area.

Planners noted that since they allowed other businesses to meet parking requirements using the land across US 12, it wouldn’t be fair to deny this for the property at 1 North Whittaker St. ..

McCollum later said more information about the restaurant would be released at a later date, but added that there would be a barbecue.

Also on November 16, the Planning Commission agreed to recommend changing the zoning of a single family home property at 6 South Willard St. from General Commercial to Residential Single Family R-1

Owners Tricia and Adam Bowden’s rezoning application noted that they are in an R-1 neighborhood.

Tricia noted at a November 16 public hearing at the request that four generations of her family have lived in the house since it was built in 1926 and that she plans to stay there for the rest of her life. She added that there is a small living room in the house, but it takes up less than 100 square feet and the small number of customers does not disturb the neighborhood.

And Planning Commission Chairman Paul Billingslea was re-elected to the position towards the end of the special meeting.

City Manager Darwin Watson noted that a joint meeting of the commission and city council was scheduled for Nov. 18 to kick off the process of reviewing and updating the zoning ordinance. He said the process includes the Planning Commission dealing with a recommendation and the City Council granting final approval.