04/23/08 — Churches protest plan for new bar

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Churches protest plan for new bar

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on April 23, 2008 2:04 PM

Five speakers representing a downtown church spoke against the establishment of a tavern at the corner of East Walnut Street and North John Street during a public hearing held by the City Council Monday night.

Jeff Darwin has asked the city for a conditional use permit to convert the former Corner Coffee Shop into a tavern and deli with entertainment.

Minister Judy Baldwin and associate minister Edward Ward of Ministries Prayer on Walnut Street said the bar would be in close proximity to their church.

"It's too close for comfort," Ward said. "We strongly oppose this."

Both said there isn't enough parking available, and that the bar would only bring more traffic and less spaces for churchgoers at night and on Sundays. Many times as they are having services, especially at night, people wander in off the street, they said.

"We have problems with people coming in, intoxicated and disturbing (the churchgoers) and begging for money," Mrs. Baldwin said.

Downtown resident and business owner Debbie Pittman was one of the two people, along with Darwin, who spoke in support of the proposal.

She addressed some the concerns brought up by those in opposition, saying that there was no traffic during the night time hours on Walnut Street.

"There are cars parked on John Street in front of Torero's and Koi Asian, but none there," she said. "There's plenty of ample parking.

She added that the type of people who come into the churches, asking for money, are not the type that are patrons of downtown restaurants and businesses.

Darwin stood up at the podium and told those in opposition that he, too, appreciated their concerns, but the location was also previously utilized as a wine bar with no problems.

Plus, he said, "it's going to have some of the best food in town. Fresh soups daily. ... Fresh bread daily. ... I believe it's going to be a good asset. It's going to get good people back downtown."

In other business, the council approved an ordinance allowing the consumption of alcoholic beverages on public property only if a valid permit is obtained from the city manager upon the filling out of a n application. The permit fee will be $100.

Council members also approved an ordinance allowing restaurants to serve food and alcohol on the sidewalk outside of the business, once an application is filled out and the permit to do so is authorized.

Three other public hearings also were held.

The first was a rezoning request by The Potter's House to change property on the east side of Bryant Street between Atlantic Avenue and Holly Street from residential to office and institutional. No one spoke.

A hearing was held on a conditional use permit by Myco Supply Co. for property on the north side of West Ash Street between Alabama Avenue and the Southern Railroad to allow for the expansion of a facility for the storage of hazardous or chemical materials. One person spoke in opposition to the plan.

The last hearing was held regarding a conditional use permit by Wooten Development Co. for property located on the west side of South George Street between Cola Drive and the Southern Railroad. The applicant requested the permit to allow for the owner to lease 3.37 acres of the site to Amerigas to operate a propane gas business, allowing the storage of flammable liquids and gases. One person spoke in favor of the permit. Due to time constraints on the project, the Planning Commission met during the council meeting and gave its recommendation to the council. Council members approved the permit.

The council also approved budget amendments and ordinances as well as stated their support for the county's sales tax referendum.