The city’s Planning Commission had recommended that the location of such restaurants be restricted to areas designated as “highway commercial” zones.
At present, Hillsboro Heights is the only developed property within the city that is zoned as highway commercial. The newly platted Hillsboro Business Park, located directly east of Ash Street along U.S. Highway 56, also will be zoned that way.
No conflict of interest
Before discussion commenced, City Administrator Larry Paine reminded council members that the issue before them was about setting general public policy. The plans or desires of any particular restaurant within the community were not germane to the agenda.
Because of that, he added, “conflicts of interest do not exist in this particular environment.”
Though he did not elaborate, Paine’s comments were in reference to the participation of two council members who are involved in local restaurants.
Councilor Shane Marler is part owner of La Cabana, a restaurant that has applied to the state for a license to serve liquor by the drink at its Main Street location.
Councilor Byron McCarty is employed at Olde Towne Restaurant, which does not serve alcoholic drinks at its Main Street location.
Paine said “conflict of interest” applies when a specific business is requesting a specific action on the part of the city, and a council member has a vested interest in that business. In such a case, the council member would have to be excused from participating in the deliberation.
But, Paine added, “You all have a general interest in policy-making that affects the entire city.”
With that clarification, all four councils member present participated in the discussion.
Limited commercial zone
Council President Shelby Dirks, who moderated the meeting in the absence of Mayor Delores Dalke, asked if opting for a “limited commercial” zoning designation would open the downtown area to restaurants licensed to serve alcohol.
Paine said, given the sequential nature of the city’s zoning classifications, “limited commercial” actually would include all four commercial categories: limited commercial, highway commercial, general commercial and central business district.
Councilor Bob Watson acknowledged that “a lot of different opinions” exist on the issue, but said his preference would be to broaden the options to include the areas previously discussed by the Planning Commission: Hillsboro Heights (highway commercial), the central business district and the limited commercial zone that runs along the west and east ends of D Street.
After Paine briefly explained the purpose and possible application of a conditional-use permit, Watson moved to change the Planning Commission’s recommendation to “limited commercial” with no conditional-use permits required.
Marler seconded the motion.
Paine had indicated the council would need a “super majority” to change the commission’s recommendation. In the case of a four-member council, that would require a unanimous vote.
Move to table
Even before Dirks conducted the roll-call vote, McCarty indicated he was opposed to the council’s motion. He said even though some of the arguments to restrict the location of restaurants “didn’t hold water,” several people in his ward had expressed a similar viewpoint.
McCarty said he wasn’t prepared to vote against their wishes until he had more input.
“I would like to hear from some people who have a positive thing to say that we need to have a restaurant downtown that serves alcohol,” McCarty said.
The council then approved by a 3-0 vote McCarty’s motion to table the issue for further consideration.
“I’m not against it and I’m not for it,” McCarty said. “But I would like more information before I would vote against (having a restaurant that serves liquor downtown).”
Following the vote to table the issue, two members of the public expressed concern that the council’s motion had not required conditional-use restrictions.
“If you allow a restaurant that serves liquor by the drink in whatever district with no conditional-use permit, somebody could technically put a restaurant beside either one of the schools, either one of the churches or wherever,” said Plato Shepherd, pastor of the Cottonwood Valley Independent Baptist Church.
“Surely, if you were going to allow anything, there would be some kind of consideration of what distance you would allow it from a residence, from a school, from a church.”
Shepherd said from his understanding of the discussion, the Planning Commission preferred not to have liquor by the drink anywhere in town, but was required by the 2004 county vote to define a place for it.
He said the majority of voters in both Hillsboro wards had voted against liquor by the drink in Marion County.
“It looked to me like the Planning & Zoning Commission said, ‘We want it in the least allowable place,’” Shepherd said.
Gari-Anne Patzwald, who identified herself as being married to a faculty member at Tabor College, asked whether the council could stipulate that the area along D Street near the college campus could be protected.
“I am very concerned about parents coming to look at Tabor College and seeing a liquor-serving restaurant on (D Street) anywhere near the college, because that is the clientele that Tabor serves,” she said.
Dirks thanked the speakers for their input.
No set timeline
Paine said late last week that no timeline has been set for bringing the issue back for council action.
He added that until the city has an ordinance in place that defines where a restaurant serving alcohol can be located, such an establishment could be located anywhere.