Mendell Attempts to Block Rooftop Dining to Enrich Herself

By Brent Woodcox

We already knew that certainly Raleigh city councilors had a vendetta against rooftops and patios. What we didn’t know is just how far one would go to stop one from operating when it popped up near property she owned. Current Raleigh City Councilor Stef Mendell used her public position to pressure political appointees not to approve a patio on the roof of award-winning local chef Scott Crawford new Person Street district restaurant because she thought it would hurt her property value. I can’t imagine a more clear conflict of interest from a city councilor than interfering with a city decision to try to maximize personal income drawn from a rental property. But Stef Mendell’s hypocrisy and lack of decency should fail to shock me at this point.

There’s a lot happening on North Person Street these days: the bustling Person Street Bar, the always-hip Station restaurant, The Pelagic bottle shop around the corner. So it’s no surprise that chef Scott Crawford, a five-time James Beard Award semifinalist, wants to expand his presence in the historic Oakwood neighborhood.

Crawford asked Raleigh for permission to put a rooftop dining area atop Jolie, the French bistro he plans to open adjacent to his acclaimed Crawford and Son.

When his proposal came before the city’s Board of Adjustment on March 11, only one person spoke against it.

She owns a nearby 682-square-foot condo, which she purchased for $117,000 in 2011, but she doesn’t live there. Instead, she rents it out, and she was worried that her tenant might be bothered by the noise.

But she wasn’t just any landlord. She was Stef Mendell, a Raleigh City Council member. This wasn’t in her district—she lives in and represents District E, in North Raleigh—but she still wanted to make her views known.

In 2017, the city council adopted a code of conduct to prevent council members from interfering with its commissions and boards. Council members are discouraged from even attending meetings, because “the mere presence of a council member … may affect the board or commission and interfere with its function.”

In other words, the board may feel pressured to do what the council member wants. ...

Mendell was the only person at the BOA meeting concerned about noise. On the other hand, the only Oakwood resident present spoke in favor of the project, saying Crawford has “been a good neighbor,” according to meeting minutes.

Council member Corey Branch, whose District C includes Oakwood, says he wasn’t aware of any concerns. “If there was an issue, someone would have definitely called,” Branch says. “I haven’t heard anything or any complaints. Nothing about it.”

Even so, the BOA imposed conditions on the project that Mendell says made her“perfectly happy.”

To get his rooftop bar, Crawford can’t have amplified music and must adhere to an 11:00 p.m. curfew—neither of which is likely a huge deal, considering that Jolie will be a high-end restaurant and not a nightclub. (Crawford and Son closes at ten.) But Crawford, who did not respond to requests for comment, also has to erect an eight-foot-tall wood-board-screen fence around the rooftop. It’s unclear how much that will cost. ...
— Leigh Tauss - Indy Week
Brent Woodcox