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Restaurant’s plans in dry dock for time being

Stephen Halsey opened Powerhouse Burger in Pilot Point last week. The restaurant, located inside the old Texas-New Mexico Power building just north of The Square, is in the city’s historic district.

Recently, Halsey was gently teased by members of the city’s Historic Review Board for failing to apply for permission before making changes to the exterior of his building. He has owned the building since 2014 but had never gone through that process before.

“There are challenges in owning a business in any municipality,” Halsey said Tuesday. “But the good thing about investing in a small town like Pilot Point is you can walk in and actually talk to decision makers. You are more likely to receive help.”

One issue Halsey is working with the city to address is a panel of corrugated metal and cedar plank he added to his building above the storefront and whether it qualifies as a sign. If it doesn’t, the historic district’s design guidelines recommend not permitting it.

Another issue is an old pontoon boat that has been on Halsey’s property for years. Halsey moved the boat from the back of the building closer to the entrance. He would like to keep it for outdoor seating for customers, but members of the city’s Historic Review Board don’t find it appropriate.

“We would like to follow the rules of the city,” Halsey said. “If the rules say it’s ok, we would like it to be ok.”

Halsey had operated the gelato shop PiPo’s Chill Factory at the Texas-New Mexico Power building location for about two years before closing it last winter. He had always planned for a restaurant there, so he took on a partner and remodeled in preparation for the opening of Powerhouse Burger. He added the corrugated metal and cedar planks to decorate the building’s façade, and he moved the old pontoon boat closer to the building’s entrance.

That’s when he heard from the city.

Because Halsey’s restaurant is located in the city’s historic district, he can’t make changes to its exterior without first securing a certificate of appropriateness from the city’s Historic Review Board. He hadn’t been aware of that when he added corrugated metal to decorate the building’s façade.

Halsey applied for a certificate of appropriateness and appeared at the Historic Review Board’s June meeting. He asked to be allowed to have the corrugated metal decorating his storefront and also to be allowed to have the pontoon boat next to the building to be used for outdoor seating.

Historic Review Board members denied both portions of Halsey’s request. His appeal of the board’s decision will be on the next City Council meeting agenda. He said he has appreciated the process because it has forced him to do a lot of research on city ordinances.

In the case of the pontoon boat, Halsey said he has not found anything where it says it should not be allowed on his property. In his report for the Historic Review Board, John Taylor, the city’s development services director, admitted that the historic district’s design guidelines don’t address it.

If Halsey’s property was zoned as residential, the boat sitting on grass would be a code violation. Halsey has pointed out that his building is zoned as commercial, and he has never received a violation from code enforcement in the years he has had the boat on the property.

Halsey said he will abide by the decision made at the Aug. 19 City Council meeting. He said city officials—especially Taylor and Historic Review Board Chair Tori Wells—have been very helpful in walking him through the processes of applying for a certificate of appropriateness and appealing the Historic Review Board’s decision.

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