City Council Meeting 05/15/2012
As usual, I watched Tuesday night’s city council meeting from home. The agenda is available on the city’s website. A brief summary and some commentary are below.
A meeting of the liquor control commission preceded the council meeting. The LCC approved fair days liquor licenses for Main Street’s Downtown Art and Wine Fairs and a liquor license transfer to the new owners of Gatsby’s II unanimously. The LCC also accepted third quarter reports from the Police Department, Fire Department, and Building and Neighborhood Services for license year 2011-2012. The LCC then adjourned.
After announcements and the Historic Preservation Award presentation, the council approved the consent agenda unanimously. Council member Don Monty pulled Item 4.6 (pdf) from the consent agenda to draw attention to it. That item concerns an application for a grant to construct a pedestrian and bicycle path in the downtown.
Council unanimously approved the first two items on the General Business agenda, item 5.1 honoring a retired city employee and item 5.2 approving Fair Days for Main Street’s Downtown Art and Wine Fairs.
Item 5.3 was the most controversial issue of the evening. It was an application for a special use permit to allow a home-based occupation (a dog and cat grooming business) in a low-density residential district. After nearly an hour of public comment and a series of amendments, the special use permit was defeated in a 4-3 vote. Council members McDaniel, Wissmann, and Monty supported the special use permit, while members Adams, Jack, Fronabarger, and Mayor Fritzler opposed it. I’ll comment on this item after the summary of the rest of the meeting.
Item 5.4, a resolution authorizing a special use permit to allow high density (R-3) residential dwellings in a PA (Professional Administrative Office) district, was approved unanimously. Item 5.5, which amends city code to allow council members to serve as members of not-for-profit corporations, was also approved unanimously.
Item 5.6, which concerned an application for a grant to build a parking lot on the former Animal Crackers site at 315 S. Illinois Avenue passed unanimously. I’ve written in the past that I don’t think additional surface parking on the strip is a good idea.
After citizen comments and council comments, the council entered closed session at 10:02 p.m.
I want to comment on item 5.3, the special use permit allowing a home-based pet grooming business in a low-density residential district. Regular readers know that, at least as a general rule, I think certain types of business should be allowed to operate in residential districts. And I think a small pet grooming business based in the home should be able to operate in a residential district without causing much disruption.
But a general rule should sometimes be broken in specific circumstances. This one was a very close call, but the specific location of this business – at the end of a short, narrow, dead-end street – convinced me that this specific special use permit shouldn’t be issued, at least for now. If the business were located on a through street, that would change everything.
During the discussion, council members Wissmann, Monty, and Jack offered amendments to further restrict the special use, in the hopes that the restrictions would address the fears and concerns of the neighbors. The Wissmann-Monty amendment would have restricted signage at the site and would have capped business at 2 pets present at a time and no more than 5 pet groomings per week. The Jack amendment would have limited the special use to one year so council could reevaluate.
I think those were good amendments, and I’m glad to see council members trying to reach compromise while balancing competing interests. In almost any other circumstance, I would have favored the special use permit. But the location of the business at the end of a dead-end street – basically a cul-de-sac weighed more heavily in my mind.
Sometimes when council takes a vote, I wonder what the members who vote against my preferred position are thinking – in fact, I sometimes wonder IF they’re thinking. This vote was not one of those circumstances. I think there was a strong case to be made for issuing the special use permit, and the three council members who voted for it had good reasons to do so.
Comments are welcome.