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Knuk N Futz Denied Permission to Create Patio for Outdoor Dining

Knuk N Futz has reclaimed its place as a popular dining destination in Taylor Mill and now its owner wants his customers to be able to enjoy their food outside.

Kevin Novesl started work on a patio project that would add outdoor dining to the longtime staple of Taylor Mill Road, but work was stopped after being told he needed the proper permits, something that was not sought out initially.

Now going through the appropriate channels, Novesl was denied permission for the patio by the city's board of adjustments on Thursday. The board voted unanimously, 5-0, to uphold the recommendation of the Taylor Mill zoning administrator to deny the plans.

There were two issues at play in Knuk N Futz's proposal: did the patio constitute an expansion of a business that is already operating as a non-conforming use in a residential district and would the proposed patio be too close to busy Taylor Mill Road?

The restaurant was already in operation when the city's most recent zoning code was adopted but any expansion of it would require permission from the board of adjustments.

Novesl argued Thursday that his grandfathered business was not expanding, rather he was simply utilizing more of the property.

"We agree that it's a very good thing for a community like this to keep most of the commercial businesses in one area and to keep its residential feel and its rural feel. That's what drew me here. That's why I sunk every dollar, sweat, and tear into that place," Novesl told the board. "I'm expanding nothing. I'm simply utilizing my property in its entirety. The county and city both tax me commercially in a residential zone on the entire piece of property."

Members of the board acknowledged that they enjoyed the restaurant and that they could appreciate the argument, but the zoning code specifically references "structure". "No non-conforming use or structure may be enlarged or extended beyond its area of use at the time it becomes a legal non-conforming use, unless and until the use is brought into conformance with all provisions of this ordinance," the city's zoning code reads.

"It bothers me to say it but I do think it is an expansion of the use of the structure," said John Lucas, chairman of the board of adjustments. "I just don't agree that the structure is the whole area. I like the approach but at the end of the day, I think legally it's going to run into this footprint element that you're expanding that footprint."

"I don't think anybody's denying that what you want to do is a good idea but I think I'm in agreement that it is a structure," said Todd Fuller, a member of the board of adjustments. "It was the intention of what the verbiage or the writing is saying."

"I love the place and I like Kevin (Novesl)'s argument," board member Richard Meyer said, "but I don't know that I agree with that. I think the structure is the building or any other structure on that property. I like the outdoor seating. I'd love to see it. For us to be the ones up here, the law's pretty clear. To change it, I don't think we can."

The zoning code was not the only obstacle Novesl faced. Residents of Janet Drive, across the street from the restaurant, spoke against the idea of outdoor dining because of noise.

"My mother-in-law lives right across the street. It does exist, especially since the smoking ban went into effect" said Patrick Haney, referencing the noise.  Everybody goes outside to smoke. After they've had a couple drinks it does get a little loud."

While Novesl argued that his establishment is more of a restaurant than a bar and that the place dies down in the later evening hours, Haney disagreed.
"After nine o'clock, it's a bar," Haney said.
"You're wrong," Novesl said to Haney. "How many times have you been in it?"
"I live across from it, buddy," Haney said. "After nine, that's when the noise gets to be a pain. We've got a valley right across the street and you hear it."
Similar concerns arose years ago when Barleycorn's sought to expand with outdoor dining and live acoustic music in Lakeside Park. Members of the board of adjustments and former Taylor Mill Mayor Mark Kreimborg both testified Thursday to having spoken to leaders in that city who reportedly told them that allowing the Barleycorn's plan was a bad decision.
Novesl had referenced the possibility of allowing music, too, at Knuk N Futz.
"(The unnamed city councilman) said allowing music to play, it's the biggest mistake they ever made because they get so many complaints about it because it's in a residential area," said Kreimborg, now the Kenton County Deputy Judge-Executive. "Entertainment and noise in a residential area, I don't think it's a great mix."
Jenny Englehart, the former general manager at the Lakeside Park Barleycorn's, spoke in favor of Novesl's plans, saying that her employer hired experts to test the decibel level in the surrounding area and that the music was quieter than garbage trucks and general traffic on Dixie Highway.
"What Jane Doe may view as being loud is not necessarily a violation of city ordinance," Englehart told the board. "They don't need to have that shot down because Mary Jane down the street thinks a guitar is too loud on a weekday. These people deserve a break."
Knuk N Futz reopened late last year after a devastating fire last spring, its third such blaze since being in operation for 19 years.
Though the business is attracting diners, Novesl is concern that a lack of an outdoor seating an option lessens its competitive level as the city prepares to welcome more restaurants at the Districts of Taylor Mill, a large commercial development in the middle of the city. Novesl said those new businesses would have an unfair advantage over his.
But the patio would also require a variance since it would only be 23 feet from the road where requirements state such a thing must be at least 35 feet away. Mike Ionna of the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission said Thursday that the plans constitute a violation of that ordinance.
Being rejected by the board of adjustments, Novesl's next option is to take his case to the courts.
"I'll see you at Circuit Court," he told the board at the meeting's conclusion.
Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News
Photo: Novesl speaks at Thursday's hearing/RCN
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