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City Council September 22

Mr. Malony pleads for forgiveness and leniency
New rules for PODs and Sidewalk Dining
Marc Knapp

The highlight of yesterday’s City Council meeting was the emotional appeal by Mr. Danny Malony for forgiveness and leniency. Mr. Malony was convicted for embezzling funds from the City and served time in jail. He was also ordered to make restitution to the City for the stolen funds. In the course of the latter, he and his family sold much of their assets.

The Post and Courier gave full coverage to Mr. Malony’s despair in today’s issue. It also thoroughly detailed the complexity of the final asset sales, a task we will not attempt. Suffice to say, the City is determined to recover all that it can from Mr. Malony and is now waiting to sell the house it acquired which was the family residence. Mr. Malony seemed to be asking that the City ease up in its pursuit, noting the adversity that he brought upon his family.

Mayor remains expressionless
Mayor Riley did not blink during Mr. Malony’s pleas. He may have felt sympathy, or something else. After all, the Malony family was amongst his friends, so the embezzlement was a betrayal as well as a crime. And indeed, as the Mayor, he has the responsibility to the citizens to achieve full restitution whatever his personal feelings.

The finale was like that of a revival meeting with some Council members rising to exclaim their forgiveness. Council member Gallant said he would give Danny a hug and duly rose to do so. Fortunately other Council members just said they were forgiving.

Council members need to prepare before meetings
Before we move onto the discussion of last night’s meeting, we like to express a wish, again, that Council members read their agenda packages. They reach members some days before the meeting so there is ample time for perusal. Discussion last night on some items just went on and on and could have been much shorter if members read the material. Debate would also be more meaningful.

Time and size limits placed on use of PODS
The discussion on the proposed ordinance relating to Portable Storage Devices (PSU a.k.a PODS) seemed endless. It was not helped by the Mayor, letting members of the public to speak on the issue without a time limit, and some to speak twice or more during the public hearing. The issue has already been discussed on Council some weeks ago before it was sent to the Planning Commission. It came back last night in its final form.

Limit of 30 days though extensions can be sought
The ordinance limits to 30 days the placement of a PSU on a lot. An extension can be obtained from the City’s Zoning Administrator but only for good reason. Those reasons will include emergencies such as flooding or particular hardships. But as last’s night discussion indicated, there will be a lot of subjectivity in any decision by the Administrator.

The ordinance also attempted to address the siting of the PSU, the material that can be stored in them and their size, and number that can be place on a lot (only one).

Some members of the public spoke strongly against PSUs. They were an eye sore, they said, and PSUs were often placed in conspicuous parts of a property and kept there for months. (We thought this was addressed by the Ordinance but it was a common theme)

Concern about 16 foot maximum length
Some members of the PSU rental industry spoke and in some measure were for the ordinance, or at least supporting its objective. They said most customers had only short term needs and that the renting company preferred to ship a loaded PSU back to its storage area for safe keeping rather than leave it on a property. But one member noted that limiting the length of a unit to 16 feet would adversely affect him. About 30% of his PSU revenue came from renting units with a length of 20 feet.

Council members Wilson and Shirley expressed unease about the 16 foot limitation. Staff said the limit was in line with that of the County and Mount Pleasant. Both Council members voted in line with the rest of Council for the new ordinance.

Sidewalk cafes in Residential areas does not go down well
The proposed amendment to allow “sidewalk cafes in residential areas under specific conditions as a zoning special exception” got a lot of heat. And it was clear from the discussion that the Mayor has a dog in this fight and he was not going to lose.

Readers may recall that about five years ago, the City permitted sidewalk dining in commercial areas under certain conditions. There was little opposition with only then-Council member Fishburne opposed. Last night, there was considerable opposition from some of the African American members of Council, and from Council member Mallard who thought Council was not acting consistently.

Council member Lewis opposed to amendment
Council member Lewis was very opposed to the amendment. He referred to a cafe in his district and the problems that such an amendment would create. Serving alcohol in a residential area which the police were attempting to clean up was not right. It would be a set back. There would be noise and other problems. A member of the public also spoke against it and noted that the particular café was on a road that was heavily used by Bourke High School students.

The Mayor said that he was prompted to seek the amendment by a request from the owner of a property at the corner of Queen and Logan streets. He thought that the problems raised by Council member Lewis could be addressed by existing ordinances.

Council member White suggests that serving alcohol be barred
Council member White sensibly suggested that the ordinance be amended so that alcohol was not served outside in cafes in residential areas. This was ultimately seconded as an amendment to the amendment.

Council member Lewis still objected and said that he had doubts that the police, already stretched, could enforce the ban on alcohol being served. There was more discussion and the Mayor suggested another amendment - that that approval for sidewalk dining in a residential area must first be approved by 25 members of the immediate community and that if there is a neighborhood association, by it also.

Council approved the amendment with the 2 added amendments with Council members Mitchell, Lewis Gallant and Mallard voting against.

Difficulty in tailoring an ordinance for whole City
I suppose the discussion indicates the difficulty in tailoring ordinances to fit all parts of the City. We’d agree with the Mayor that outside dining/drinking up until 9 pm may be fine for the corner of Logan and Queen Streets. It is a safe neighborhood and reasonably trafficked. But an establishment serving alcohol for consumption on the sidewalk in the Eastside could be a bad idea. As Council member Gallant said a citizen “brown bagging” it on his front step on the street in the East side could be forced to empty the contents of the container. But if the original amendment were passed, it was OK to drink alcohol if sitting at a table on the sidewalk. This was incongruous

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