Council denies Vinsetta Garage’s parking lot rezoning request

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published July 22, 2014

With the City Council meeting packed just as the two prior Planning Commission meetings had been, the Berkley City Council put an end to Vinsetta Garage owner Curt Catallo’s plans to build a parking lot along Oxford Street.

During the June 24 Planning Commission meeting, Catallo made his pitch to rezone four single-family lots he had purchased along Oxford and then build a parking lot for Vinsetta Garage, located at 27799 Woodward Ave.

Catallo had purchased the lots at 960, 972, 984 and 996 Oxford — on the north side of the street — but his plan was met with criticism from residents who live in the neighborhood.

The Planning Commission recommended to council to deny Catallo’s rezoning proposal, and the council did just that during the July 21 meeting. The council told Catallo that the city does not need another parking lot and other parking solutions exist.

“It comes down to this for me — Vinsetta Garage is required to have a certain amount of spaces, about 64, to operate their business, and in the immediate area there are about 248 spaces available, most of those empty at the exact time Vinsetta Garage needs parking,” Mayor Phil O’Dwyer said. “I am persuaded there are several other viable options that should be explored. I think we need to come to a creative solution to resolve this issue. We need more cooperation and less concrete.”

Vinsetta Garage opened as a restaurant in May 2012 after the automobile repair shop of the same name closed in 2010 after 91 years of serving the Berkley community. Parking complaints arose almost immediately as the restaurant has only a small valet parking lot south of the building and numerous guests would park along Oxford and Eaton Road.

Catallo originally purchased 960, 972 and 984 Oxford and requested rezoning in May before purchasing 996 Oxford and asking for the agenda item to be postponed until the June Planning Commission meeting. Many of the same residents who spoke in June reiterated their opposition to the parking lot to council.

“My belief is I am here on behalf of residents of Oxford because I have heard their issues with traffic on their street and understood there were issues with increased traffic and parking up and down Oxford,” said Catallo, who also owns and operates restaurants in Clarkston and Fenton. “This is an area of Berkley that likely needs more parking to be a more vibrant area. I am not asking for any temporary authorization as I am committed to being in Berkley for the long haul and this is a long-term solution.”

Like many of the residents and members of the Planning Commission, several members of the council felt there were other parking options for Vinsetta Garage to pursue.

In 2012, Catallo purchased a single-family residential lot at 1010 Eaton and had it rezoned for parking, but outside of the house and garage being torn down, the lot has not been developed for parking. Since that time, Catallo also has purchased 1046 Eaton, although it has not been rezoned.

Catallo revealed at the council meeting that there have been some environmental issues with 1010 Eaton that has delayed plans, but they have given their contractors a four-month time frame to get the work done.

“1010 Eaton is under process and we had three different revisions with our engineering, and even though it is a small lot, it is thoroughly engineered,” Catallo said. “When the contractor started, they found some soil issues and it required bringing in substantially more soil, about $17,000 spent on new soil, and we could do nothing in the winter months.”

Besides the Eaton lots, parking agreements were another option talked about at the meeting. When Vinsetta originally opened, it had an agreement with Charter One Bank, located about a block north of the restaurant, for guests to park at it, but now the restaurant has an agreement with NorthPointe Foot & Ankle, also located about a block north.

There have been talks of Vinsetta Garage partnering with T-Mobile, located just north of Eaton, to create a parking lot on Eaton, as T-Mobile owns 1036 Eaton. Catallo said he wants a longer deal than T-Mobile is willing to enter, making an agreement cost-prohibitive for Vinsetta.

Still, Councilman Dan Terbrack said cooperation is the best course of action moving forward.

“My motion is not a motion against Vinsetta or in favor of the residents, but the motion was made because I do believe there are a number of options we can look at as a council and work with the businesses to alleviate the parking problems,” Terbrack said after making a motion to deny the rezoning request. “We need a practical solution and to find a solution that works for everybody. I don’t want to see Vinsetta go anywhere, as I want the business here, but we want the residents happy, as well.”

While Catallo feels a shorter agreement with T-Mobile is not in the best interest of Vinsetta, which is looking for something closer to 20 years as opposed to T-Mobile’s wish for a four-year agreement, Councilman Alan Kideckel said it may be the best option at this point, even if it is not long term.

“We are at a point now where we need to crawl before we walk,” he said. “Four years may be a viable option, as there is more than one way to get things done. There is an opportunity for these businesses to get together to work out something beneficial for the entire city of Berkley.”