First and foremost, the proposed project is being undertaken by Putnam County Comprehensive Services as a training effort for its clients.
Secondly, after action by the Greencastle Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) Tuesday night, the project has been approved for the vacant lots(s) along the west side of Bloomington Street, immediately north of the Maytag Laundry. All involved cited that alone as an improvement to the area.
Thirdly, the ice cream/sandwich shop could become a pilot program for the state in providing gainful employment for developmentally disabled persons, PCCS Executive Director Chuck Schroeder noted during the 30-minute meeting at City Hall.
"One of our major functions," Schroeder said of PCCS, "is to train our clients."
Several of those clients are employed at McDonald's and other fast-food locations in Greencastle.
Creating its own ice cream shop/restaurant would allow PCCS to train employees for both the welfare of its clients and area restaurants who might then hire the seasoned workers. In the process, the idea is to make a little money and become a self-sufficient operation, Schroeder said.
In addition to ice cream, the shop would likely sell hamburgers and hotdogs, he said.
The project received a development standards variance from the BZA for the property at 432 Bloomington St., where the building will have a 17-foot setback from the street rather than the required 50-foot setback.
Engineer Garth Hughes pointed out that the 17-foot setback would not be unusual for the small-scale commercial properties in the area. On average, he said, those sites have a 14-foot setback.
"The building next door (Maytag)," he noted, "has a 10-foot setback and another, the pawn shop, is right on the property line."
Hughes also noted that the combined lots to be used by PCCS now have four entrances/exits to U.S. 231/Bloomington Street. Those would be reduced to just two.
Traffic on the lot would be channeled more safely behind the building. A drive-through window is also planned.
The long, narrow site where the building will be located was last the scene of a business when Bill Robertson operated a used car lot on the property. For most of the past 35 years or more, however, the site has been nothing but a gravel parking area.
An asphalt parking area north of the proposed building will encompass the old Charlie Brown Barbecue site (last a gyros restaurant).
The vacant lot north of the parking area was once the old Satellite restaurant last used as a tattoo parlor and before that a flower shop. It is not included in the PCCS development.
Donna and Mike Baker own the building north of that, at the point where Maple and Bloomington streets intersect.
"Personally," Mrs. Baker said Tuesday night, "I think it's going to be an improvement to the area. The area has been pretty run down for a while, so we're thrilled to see something go in there for growth."
The ice cream/sandwich shop, as yet unnamed, will be approximately 4,000 square feet or "pretty close to McDonald's size," Schroeder said.
Plans are for seating to accommodate 75 guests.
The PCCS has done its homework on the site. Schroeder said a recent survey indicates more than 8,100 vehicles per day pass the property, which is across the street from Robe-Ann Park.
Construction would ideally begin this fall, Hughes said, with a March grand opening planned.
Schroeder said the building exterior will be brick or stone with a gabled roof.
He also said PCCS has purchased most of the equipment the defunct Dari-licious had used during its brief run in Greencastle.
BZA member Paul Sanders made the motion to approve the variance with a second from John Phillips and additional yes votes from Kathy Ferrand and BZA Chairman Jeff Sigworth.
"Well done, Chuck Schroeder," Sigworth commented just prior to adjournment. "This is very exciting. I'm happy to see this for the area as well."
The Greencastle BZA is next scheduled to meet in regular session at 7 pm. Tuesday, Aug. 2 at City Hall.