Anniston mulling moratorium on bars and clubs downtown
by Patrick McCreless
pmccreless@annistonstar.com
Feb 18, 2014 | 4427 views |  0 comments | 82 82 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A temporary halt to the opening of new bars and clubs downtown would give the city a chance to develop an entertainment district, Anniston Mayor Vaughn Stewart told a City Council work session Monday night.

The council discussed instituting a 3-month moratorium on new bars and clubs downtown. City officials say the moratorium will give them time to plan where best to allow such businesses in the future to foster greater success for their owners and encourage economic development downtown overall.

The council plans to vote on the moratorium at its regular meeting Monday. The moratorium will not affect existing businesses.

City Manager Brian Johnson said Anniston does not have a defined strategy of where bars and other retail businesses should be located downtown.

"There needs to be that to make sure we don't allow those businesses to become too saturated in one area and that we're doing enough to facilitate growth," Johnson said. "And we need this so we don't have someone slip in and establish a bar in a place we don't want."

Stewart said the city wants to create a cluster master plan for the downtown area. Through the plan certain types of businesses, be they bars or antique shops, will be clustered together to benefit each other.

"We want to get synergies going in certain areas ... have an arts and entertainment district and another district more retail-oriented," Stewart said. "Then you can have another district for housing ... have artists live near the arts and entertainment district."

Stewart said the important part of the issue is to have a plan.

"You really want to plan this out and not shoot from the hip," Stewart said.

Councilman Jay Jenkins said he supported the moratorium and developing an entertainment district, as long as something gets done in the near future.

"The city has been talking about a master plan like this for as long as I can remember, but nothing ever seems to get off center," Jenkins said. "As long as we put some urgency on it, I'm for it."

Stewart said the goal is to have a rough sketch of a master plan ready for the council to see by the end of the moratorium.

Johnson said he could have something for the council in three months to show that the city could proceed with a master plan.

Also during the meeting, the council discussed clarifying how it appoints members to various city boards, such as the planning commission and the park, recreation and beautification board. Johnson said the city does not have a defined policy on how council members can appoint board members and how those appointees should be vetted. Traditionally, city council members have nominated their own board appointees and then the council votes on them.

Councilwoman Millie Harris said she favored having residents interested in serving on a board fill out an application.

"I like the idea of having a talent bank, having them say what their interests are and then apply online for a board," Harris said.

Councilman David Reddick said he also supported having a pool of talent as long as he and other council members were able to choose and appoint who they wanted from that pool.

"Each councilman should be able to make his or her own appointments," Reddick said.

Stewart also agreed with having an application process and having clarification on the board appointment process in general.

"I think getting expertise and having accountability are the most important things here," Stewart said.

The council agreed to attend a retreat March 1 to hash out the details of how it wants to appoint board members in the future.

The council also discussed providing sales and property tax abatements to Creedmoor Sports at McClellan, to help it expand and move to a new location on Alabama 21 North near Walmart. Johnson said the expansion will create between four and five new jobs.

Creedmoor Sports manufactures and sells high-end rifles.

Johnson said the loss of revenue to the city by the abatements would be minimal but would significantly help the business mitigate its expansion costs.

"If we can help them mitigate that cost a little bit, I think it sends a good message to other businesses looking to locate here," Jenkins said.

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.

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