Good news from the Pine Plains Planning Board

It’s nice to see when a project comes before a board, in this instance the Pine Plains Planning Board, and even when it meets with opposition, matters can be worked out and consensus reached. That is exactly what seems to have happened in the case with KTB principal Jack Banning, who hopes to rent the building he owns with his wife, Irene, on Church Street to former Stissing House restaurateurs Michel and Patricia Jean.

The Jeans plan to open a new French restaurant at the site, which was once home to the former local favorite Crumpets, as well as the former New Age Diner and Agriturismo, as well as a host of others. Located at 2938 Church St., the 23-person capacity dining space has served as a number of eateries in its 30-year history.

Jack and Irene are well-known in Pine Plains, not only for opening up the popular Inn at Pine Plains as well as The Platter, both on Church Street (Route 199), along with many other businesses in town, Jack is also is the inspiration behind, the co-founder of and the president of the Board of Directors of The Stissing Center (TSC). 

TSC is the still-under-renovation performing arts center on Church Street that, once done, promises to be a draw to world-class performers and paying audiences from around the Tri-state area and beyond. It will unquestionably become an anchor in the hamlet’s business district and a major arts and entertainment venue for the entire region. 

It was the Bannings’ vision of TSC, along with their partners’, that triggered the town’s reawakening a number of years ago and started to draw others to the community. All the while they continued investing, buying more property, starting up their own businesses and encouraging others to do the same in the once (and some say still) sleepy Pine Plains (not all of which have survived), like the barbershop, the laundromat, the general store, the feed store, etc. The Bannings have invested a lot into this community, in terms of not only their money but their time, energy, enthusiasm, hope and caring.

So when Jack Banning saw an opportunity to invest in the Jeans, a proven duo with Michel cooking up a storm in the kitchen and Patricia at the front of the house, we were so glad he pursued it. We were also pleased the Jeans agreed. Clearly so were the many Harlem Valley diners hungry for their wonderful French fare that has been sorely missed since they shut the doors to The Stissing House this January after 15 years of delighting discerning palates and charming chatty diners. 

That much was evident by the 70 letters in support of Banning’s application that were submitted to the Planning Board at a public hearing on Wednesday, June 9.

We also understand the concerns of neighbors Bill and Patti Hollick, who had their attorney, Wayne Thompson, submit two letters opposing the project on their behalf. The letters claimed that because the Church Street building stopped operating as a restaurant in 2019 when the coronavirus pandemic hit, Banning’s project needed to be considered as a new application rather than as a simple request for site plan approval. 

The Hollicks objected to the lack of setbacks, landscape screening, sound screening and light screening listed on the application — all of which could negatively affect them as neighbors. Patti Hollick feared they would lose all of their privacy and be able to smell and see everything going on in the restaurant’s patio, and vice versa for the restaurant’s clientele. 

The public hearing continued on Wednesday, June 23. Thompson reported the Hollicks and Banning’s attorney had made some significant progress, as they discussed using foliage to shield the two properties from each other with specific shrubbery. They also spoke of perhaps moving the compressor to quell the noise. (For more details, read article on front page.)

Bottom line? Somehow, some way, discussions were had, negotiations were held, consensus was reached. We’re not saying the matter is 100% settled, or that everything Mr. Banning wants is right, that everything the Hollicks want is right or even that everything the Planning Board wants is right. What we’re saying is the fact all sides were willing to move toward the middle and compromise is what’s important, and most likely what led to the amended site plan being approved by the Planning Board on the 23rd.

That spirit of cooperation is what will hopefully now lead to one more business opening up, one more chef ordering food from local purveyors, one more waitress getting a job, one more couple going out to eat at a local restaurant, one more tax bill being paid to the town and county, etc., etc., etc. 

It’s all good news for Pine Plains, which is all good news for us. What a great model for how a cooperative community can function successfully.

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