Thursday, August 4, 2011
Aldermen overrule zoning
By SUE WATSON
The Holly Springs Board of Aldermen took up a concern with the public works director, fire chief and zoning administrator at the July 19 meeting.
Aldermen voted to overrule the approval of the Planning Commission Board for plans for outside events behind the United Center – events such as concerts and car shows.
In explaining the city’s position, public works director Micheal Crittle said, “We gave the planning commission very specific reasons why we thought the project should not be approved – traffic flow is a problem. The site is not designed for parking more than 300 vehicles. We felt the amount of parking was not adequate for concerts.”
Crittle emphasized that the fire chief and himself were very concerned about traffic flow and the potential for accidents in that area of Craft Street.
Ken Holbrook, fire chief and code enforcer, said there is a concern about inadequate space for a fire lane entrance to the site and the potential for access by emergency personnel at outdoor events. He said the plan for events does not make it clear what business in the United Center area will provide restroom facilities for outside events, who would be in charge and responsible for events in addition to concerns about meeting fire codes.
“The planning commission can approve the plan but they still have to meet fire and building codes,” Holbrook said. “If we don’t have a business and person to talk to, how are we going to hold someone responsible?”
Crittle said he is concerned about adequate parking when there is an outside event and other businesses at the center – such as the patio – are at full capacity.
“I am concerned about how vehicles and pedestrians move about the site,” he said.
“Are they in violation?” asked alderman Russell Johnson.
Holbrook said the drawing submitted to the planning commission showed the outdoor stage “right in the middle of fire department access.”
“They were going to ignore building and fire codes,” he said. “The planning commission approved the idea, but if he (the owner) did this it would be in direct violation of fire codes.”
Holbrook suggested the city handle each request for a special event one-by-one.
“We want it on record that we are in objection to it in case of liability,” he said.
Mayor Andre’ DeBerry said the consulting city planner was also concerned about the adequate design for the outdoor use.
He said the planning commission is a use board, not the board that determines whether ordinances and codes are enforced.
Alderman Garrie Colhoun asked if the planning commission knew about the concerns the city had about traffic flow and fire lane access.
“Yes,” said Felicia Autry, zoning administrator.
She said concerns by the public works director and fire chief had been taken to the planning commission.
“They still ignored it,” she said.
Holbrook recommended the board not approve the part of the use plan where the owner would be allowed to put on outdoor events because of inadequate parking, bathroom facilities and access to fire protection.
“I think the owner did not understand he does not have blanket approval for these items,” Holbrook said. “We can require he request an event permit and the fire department and code enforcer can sign off on it.”
“At the end of the day, the public health and welfare of the city is our responsibility,” said the mayor.
“I move we disapprove this plan, deny this plan for outside events,” said alderman Harvey Payne.
Johnson said he didn’t like to make decisions on the spur of the moment with possibly missing important facts.
“I want something so he knows he is not in compliance and at what point he is not in compliance,” said Johnson. “I am uncomfortable with making decisions on the spur of the moment. I like to have the facts.”
Holbrook said his job is merely to determine if a business is or is not in compliance with codes, not to tell someone how to design their site. He said the owner had changed the scope of what was originally planned for and approved to be built.
Autry said in a B4 zone a business owner is supposed to submit a master plan of what the site will be used for.
“That is not designed for car shows,” she said.
After further statements, Johnson seconded Payne’s motion to overrule the outside events portion of the use plan that had been accepted by the planning commission. The motion passed unanimously with alderman Calvin James absent.
Johnson then said he wants to make sure all businesses are treated the same.
DeBerry said he thinks the planning commission has tried to be consistent, yet the city’s experts (Crittle, Holbrook, Autry) are qualified to monitor code enforcement.
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