A proposal to turn a derelict former corner store in the Carrollton Riverbend neighborhood into a shared-use commercial kitchen has won approval from the City Council, despite opposition from some nearby residents who said the new business would bring unwanted traffic and commercial activity to the neighborhood.
The council voted 6-0 Thursday, with Councilman James Gray absent, to change the zoning of 8837 Willow St. from two-family residential to “neighborhood business” in order to accommodate the new business.
Carrollton Commissary LLC intends to divide the 2,200-square-foot structure in two. A kitchen will occupy most of the space, about 1,300 square feet. Plans call for the remainder to become a three-bedroom apartment.
Restaurants, food trucks, catering companies, bakers and other licensed food preparers will be able to rent the kitchen, but no prepared meals will be served on-site, Kim Burgau, co-owner of the property, said. The kitchen will not have a regular staff.
According to an application submitted to the City Planning Commission, regular deliveries will not be accepted at the site and each restaurant will bring its own supplies or vehicles as needed.
“We feel the commissary kitchen will allow this storefront to be put back into commerce in a low-impact and minimally invasive way,” Burgau said. “We feel having this property alive, functional and secure with security cameras and lighting will not only improve our security but that of our immediate neighbors.”
A handful of neighbors who showed up at the council’s meeting did not share Burgau’s view.
Daniel Jackson, who has lived in the Carrollton neighborhood for 62 years, said he was opposed to the proposal because it would not benefit the community. Jackson said he would welcome another convenience store at the site because it would generate mostly pedestrian traffic and would provide a service to residents. The commercial kitchen, on the other hand, would be closed off to the community but would add negative impacts such as truck traffic on already damaged streets, he said.
Joyce Cunningham, who lives about a block from the site, said she feared granting the zoning change would clear the way for more businesses to encroach on a neighborhood of mostly one- and two-family residences.
“I believe Willow Street will become another Oak Street that now consists of nothing but bars and restaurants,” Cunningham said. “The zoning change would change the face of the area where I’ve lived and raised my family for 55 years.”
The rezoning was approved 7-1 by the City Planning Commission last month , but not before generating a great deal of discussion about the impact the swift pace of development in the city is having on some longtime residents. The commission decided that individual business owners should not be held responsible for changes in society.
Councilwoman Susan Guidry, whose district includes the site, called the kitchen a “low-impact use.”
“I believe it will be a good use,” she said. “I truly believe it’s going to be one of those situations that once it’s done, everybody’s going to be happy with it.”