10/02/12 — Sidewalk dilemma stymies council

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Sidewalk dilemma stymies council

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on October 2, 2012 1:46 PM

The Goldsboro City Council approved a conditional use permit for a nightclub on Center Street during Monday's meeting, but opted to delay approval of site plans for a church on West Ash Street.

District 3 City Councilman William Goodman asked during the council's work session that the site plans, which seek to add on a vestibule and canopy, be removed from the consent agenda to be voted on separately.

Council members can request that any item be removed from the consent agenda and generally do so when they do not agree with the item's approval and wish to vote against it.

The item, which concerned St. Mark Church of Christ, wasn't discussed extensively, however, until the regular meeting in Historic City Hall when Goodman moved that the item be approved along with all of the requested modifications to the landscaping requirements.

The Planning Commission's recommendation was to waive some, but not all, of the requirements, which centered on sidewalk installment.

The city's aim to better connect the city with sidewalks came into fruition in 2005 with a landscaping mandate that required new construction projects to factor in sidewalks along the streets around the property.

This proved difficult to enforce in all situations, however, as it resulted in forcing some property owners to install sidewalks that essentially led to nowhere in some of the city's outskirts, so in 2007 an amendment was introduced that allowed for builders to opt out of the sidewalk requirement by paying a fee.

The fees would be gathered into a line item used to install sidewalks in areas the city deemed high priority. It has since been used for sidewalks along Wayne Memorial Drive and along Park Avenue in Herman Park to allow for pedestrian access to the rose garden and fountain when the park gates are closed.

The Planning Commission agreed to waive the city's sidewalk requirement for the church's property on Mulberry and West Ash streets, but asked that the church pay the fee in lieu for the Mulberry Street frontage.

Paying that fee appeared to be Goodman's point of contention, although it also appeared that either he or District 4 Councilman Charles Williams did not understand the difference between the sidewalk requirement and the fee.

Without any discussion, Goodman moved that the request be approved with all of the requested modifications to the landscaping requirements intact, essentially freeing the church from any sidewalk or fee requirements. Williams seconded the motion, but further discussion would lead to Goodman withdrawing his motion.

Goodman asked how the measure would affect the Moose Lodge, which is across the street from the church and has been closed for years.

Mayor Pro Tem Chuck Allen was wary of the precedent that would set.

"It's a slippery slope," he said, adding that it was important to treat every request fairly.

He pointed to the six other site plan requests that had just been approved, including one for Clinic of Life Church on Graves Drive, which required the fees to be paid.

Williams noted that the council had waived the requirements for churches before and asked what good the sidewalk on Mulberry Street would do, especially since it leads to a railroad track and the Department of Transportation is closing the crossing there.

Planning Director Randy Guthrie was asked to explain the history and purpose of the fee in lieu and sidewalk programs, but council members began talking over him and each other during the discussion, prompting Mayor Al King to ask that the council members speak one at a time.

District 1 Councilman Michael Headen asked that the measure be tabled until a later council meeting, a move the members agreed on.

Guthrie was asked to present at that meeting the cases where the council has not imposed sidewalk and fee requirements.

Goodman asked that the decision be delayed 30 days and withdrew his motion.

The only other item requiring individual action during the council's meeting was a conditional use permit concerning a proposed nightclub on North Center Street.

Headen moved that Allen be recused from the vote due to a conflict of interest in the item. Williams seconded the measure and Allen excused himself from the vote and discussion, although he did not leave his seat.

A tenant in one of Allen's downtown buildings submitted a letter saying the approval of the nightclub, which would have ABC permits, could have an impact on the company's choice to extend its lease with the councilman.

District 2 Councilman Bill Broadaway moved to approve the conditional use permit, with Goodman seconding. The vote passed by a 5-0 margin.

District 6 Councilman Gene Aycock was not present at the meeting.