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Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

Celina council reviews alley vacation request on Main

By William Kincaid
CELINA - City council members likely will reject a recommendation to vacate an alley on Main Street between The Potter House and Dollar General.
Instead, they plan to allow The Potter House to expand its business in the alley by applying a recently created law permitting the erection of temporary obstructions such as fences upon approval of safety service director Tom Hitchcock.
At a streets and alleys commitee meeting Monday night, council members agreed they want to allow the coffee shop to grow by offering outdoor seating and art-related events, but they also desire to maintain control of the alley.
"They want to do some type of set-out place kind of like what the other restaurant (the 211 Club) but do it on the side," Hitchcock said.
They also want to light up the side of the building and add outdoor seating, councilman Jeff Larmore said, noting owners Kim and Vance Nation proposed the idea a few years back when city officials were planning the Main Street improvement project.
The city's planning commission, according to law director George Moore, recently recommended that city council vacate the alley on condition a full utility easement and pedestrian ingress/egress are established.
"This may be an unprecedented alley vacation because it's actually in the downtown business district," Moore said.
A vacation would essentially split the alley in half, giving both businesses possession of the land. Some concerns voiced by council members included loss of control of the alley, especially if the ownership of the The Potter House and Dollar General changes hands in the future, and pedestrians losing access to the alley.
"If you do approve the planning commission recommendation to vacate, just keep in mind that the city would have essentially little to no control over what might happen in that alley," Moore said.
Dollar General is housed in a building owned by Nancy Otis, who has not attended recent city meetings.
Some officials want to know what Otis would do with her half of the alley and how Dollar General feels about losing the space.
Moore suggested council members consider exercising the obstruction ordinance they approved earlier this year. Temporary obstructions such as fences and advertising signs are allowed in downtown as an annual permit is obtained from Hitchcock. Fences may be erected outside food service businesses.
"Everything they've showed us that they want to do, we can legally do under that ordinance we passed," Hitchcock said.
The issue of outside alcohol sales and consumption also was discussed, with council members eventually agreeing that the decision would ultimately be decided by state liquor control.
"If you're allowing the liquor agency to say it's OK to consume alcohol on the sidewalk in front of 211 (Club) there, then I think that the city would be very hard pressed to say these folks can do it but these can't," Moore said.
Council members will vote on the planning commission's recommendation at the next regular meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday.
"We're still pro-business, we're still letting them do what they want to do," Hitchcock said. "But yet we're still maintaing control for future generations."
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