The Lincolnton City Council said no to a proposed bar in downtown after hearing from several speakers on both sides of the issue Thursday night.
The decision to turn down the conditional-use permit request came in a split vote, with council member Dr. John “Les” Cloninger in favor of granting approval and council members Devin Rhyne and Carroll Heavner opposed. Council member Larry Mac Hovis, who recently suffered a heart attack and is recovering in the hospital, was absent.
The Planning Board had voted 5-1 to recommend approval of the permit, with various conditions attached, during its April meeting.
As the Times-News previously reported, Bryan McClure, who owns motorcycle repair shop Iron Station Thunder, was seeking the permit to operate the establishment at the previous site of Flatline Graphics, located at 118 E. Water St and next door to his motorcycle business.
McClure was also behind a recent request for a Unified Development Ordinance amendment to reduce the separation requirement previously stipulated for “social clubs and lounges” in downtown, which the City Council approved in a split vote at its last meeting.
In a submitted letter, he stated his hopes for the proposed bar, which he previously said would serve as a “quiet watering hole.”
“The main goal is to provide a relaxing atmosphere that will entice more visitors to our downtown area,” he noted, adding Thursday night that he also planned to grow the business into more of a restaurant over time.
While fellow downtown business operator Daniel Jacob Rhodes, who owns Fausto Coffee on Court Square along with his wife, spoke in favor of McClure’s request, saying his “intentions are well thought out,” others present for the public hearing did not.
“I don’t think this is going to be a change for the better,” said Alan Hoyle when addressing the council.
Lincolnton Planning Board member Thomas Hawk was in agreement.
“Do we enhance and energize our Main Street, or open the possibility of a Bourbon Street?” he asked council members. “Are downtown bars the environment to which you wish to expose the youth and young adults of this town?”
Robert Tomlinson likewise questioned what sort of “Pandora’s Box” might be opened by allowing the bar to operate.
Cloninger, in response to comments he described as warning against out-of-control growth, confirmed with Planning Director Laura Simmons that, in fact, the city would have the ability to clamp down on the business should the need arise through zoning violations and other means.
“The city has control,” he said.
Nonetheless, following little discussion of their own, his fellow council members voted against the motion to approve the request.
Proposed budget presented
Also during Thursday night’s meeting, City Manager Jeff Emory presented his proposed 2013-2014 fiscal year budget to the council.
This came after a work session on the topic immediately preceding the regular meeting, during which Emory briefly went through the budget’s highlights.
Some of these include a 2.5 percent cost-of-living increase for city employees, an intersection-improvement project at Main Street and Generals Boulevard, an electric rate increase of between 8 and 8.1 percent, a possible water and sewer rate increase and a proposed sanitation fee for residential and commercial customers, accompanied by a continued decrease in capital spending.
The suggested sanitation fee for residential customers is set at $10 a month.
At this point, the current tax rate is proposed to remain at its current level.
In response to a question from Rhyne about the potential for cutting that rate, Emory said he didn’t think that would be a good idea.
“I don’t feel it would be the proper thing to do,” he said.
In his official budget message to the council, Emory also touched on the tight operating expenses for the various department heads.
“I challenged them more than any other year ever to be as conservative as possible with their budgets,” he wrote.
The budget total, including five major funds, is roughly $28.2 million.
A copy of the proposed budget, as required by state statutes, is on file in City Clerk Donna Flowers’ office at City Hall, with a public hearing scheduled on the topic for June 3. It is required to be adopted by July 1.
In other City Council action: