Ordinance an obstacle for pop-up business
"Trends are different in the industry these days," said Kat Matos, who had plans to serve food out of the Nutmeg Inn on Main Street. "Right now, it's a lifetime fee. I'm just wondering if in the future, there could be amendments made to the ordinance?"
Matos, who had been the general manager at the downtown Wilmington-based Cask N Kiln, called for a short-term allocation option to be added to the ordinance. She pointed to vacant spaces in the downtown as places similar temporary businesses could be housed.
The Select Board, acting as the Sewer Commission on May 3, denied the request from Nutmeg Inn owner Paul Lockyear to waive the $6,600 sewer allocation fee for the restaurant that would be sited on his property. Matos had mentioned the target date for opening was May 11, but no payments had been made for the allocation fee as of Wednesday, May 9.
Select Board Chairman Tom Fitzgerald said the town has never waived any charges for sewer allocations.
"We obviously want to promote business," he said, suggesting that Matos seek a revolving loan from the town. "If you have collectable assets then that's going to qualify you... Payment then becomes very flexible for you."
The process of submitting and reviewing a loan application would take more than a week, said Gretchen Havreluk, interim town manager and economic development consultant for the town. Approval could then be ready by the next board meeting on May 17.
Wilmington Wastewater Treatment Plant Chief Operator John Lazelle said the Nutmeg Inn did not have an allocation to serve food to the general public. And serving dinner to guests of the inn would also be "sketchy" under the ordinances, he added. A previous owner had an allocation based on making continental breakfast available for guests.
Havreluk said the sewer ordinance follows Vermont statute.
"I'm new to this but I think you have to follow some sort of order from the state of Vermont for your ordinance in your town," she said.
Fitzgerald said other than a hotdog cart or two, he had not seen many pop-up businesses in Wilmington and waiving the charge for Matos would cause other restaurants to seek waivers.
"We obviously want the business to be here, we would like you to be here," Fitzgerald said. "It's all precedent."
Lazelle said once allocation has been reserved for a business, it has never been returned and the same goes for apartments.
"We've always said, 'If it's available, you have to pay,'" he said.
Select Board member Vince Rice said the system was the only way to keep the process fair.
Lockyear, who would be keeping the allocation, called the pop-up restaurant "a test." Matos said seasons after the summer would be difficult to run a business at the inn's location. That uncertainty, she added, is "more risk than we can take on at this time."
Matos was joined at the meeting by Aaron Paul-Mitchell, who was a chef at Cask N Kiln.
"We have not heard from them since the Select Board meeting last Wednesday as to what they're doing," Havreluk told the Reformer on Tuesday.
Reach staff writer Chris Mays at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or @CMaysBR.
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