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City Beat

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by Karen E. Culp

City Council moved through a number of bills in a short time at its Aug. 17 meeting.

The council held a first reading on a bill that would allow the storage of inoperable vehicles at personal storage businesses if the zoning district of that business allows outdoor storage.

The cars would have to be screened under the rules for salvage yards, said Tom Finnie, city manager. The vehicles would have to be stored behind a privacy fence; chain link would not be allowed. The ordinance would allow up to 15 cars to be stored at a storage business, but the owner of the business can't own the cars; they have to be owned by others who are storing them there.

Council members were concerned about this ordinance, wondering whether adequate screens would be constructed, and asked for the definition of inoperable vehicles. Finnie said that this ordinance deals only with the placement of such vehicles in storage businesses, and did not deal with inoperable vehicles at private residences.

"This is just a measure to regulate the placing of these cars at storage businesses," Finnie said.

While the ordinance to permit outdoor live or amplified music in the center city district passed, with only Councilman Russell Rhodes voting against, the ordinance to allow the sale of beer at a Commercial Street event Labor Day weekend failed.

Rhodes said he voted against the music ordinance because of concerns he had about permitting high sound levels outdoors. Councilman Bob Vanaman said he was in favor of the ordinance, but he asked for a reduction in sound levels during the outdoor concerts.

"Most people are not opposed to outdoor music, but just to the level of the sound. Turning up the volume doesn't make better music," Vanaman said.

Supporters of the ordinance which would have permitted the sale of alcohol at the Commercial Club's Bohemian Ball were concerned that a petition, comprising 32 names of Commercial Street businesspeople, swayed some of the council members.

Mary Collette said she was counting on the vote of Mayor Lee Gannaway, who ultimately voted against the ordinance.

Vanaman, councilman for Zone 1, said he thought the event had gone off well in previous years and that the event raises funds for the improvement of Commercial Street.

"On the other hand, I don't like to see Commercial Street split on decisions. I like to see unity among the group," Vanaman said.

Councilman Conrad Griggs spoke out against the ordinance as imposing morals on others.

"It's our responsibility as individuals to do what's right, but it's not our responsibility as makers of policy to impose what we think is right on others," Griggs said.

Despite the ordinance's failing, members of the Commercial Club said the show will go on.

"Beer is really a very small part of the event," said president Jim Downing.

Collette, also a club member, said she was concerned about whether the ordinance failed as a result of who raised the issue.

"I wonder if the Dickerson Park Zoo had been asking for this, would the result have been the same?" Collette said.

The petition surprised Commercial Club members, who said they had not heard any opposition to the ordinance from other business owners.

The council also tabled a bill that would rezone about three-fourths of an acre on the west side of South Scenic, south of Battlefield. The rezoning would take the area from a heavy manufacturing district to an industrial commercial district.

That use is needed to add commercial uses to already permitted industrial uses on the site. The request was made by the Jerry R. Carter Trust. The bill was tabled on the basis of a concern about the conditions of the ordinance.

The ordinance contains conditions that additional right of way be dedicated and Scenic Avenue be improved with a left-turn lane.

Staff is to look at those conditions and report back to council with a substitute or new bill.

The council held a public hearing on a bill to change the separation distances between jails and other uses. Specifically, the ordinance would increase the space between a jail and a residential district from 500 feet to 750 feet. The ordinance deals with private jails.

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