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City Council, May 14

Council embraces “Late Night Entertainment Establishment Ordinance”
But not so keen on new rule to hide trash containers
Marc Knapp

The revitalization of upper King Street has been a remarkable success. Now sporting trendy restaurants, bars and retailers, the street stands in strong contrast to the shabby and neglected appearance some years ago. But the success has brought its own problems – the creep of bars and restaurants onto the fringes of adjacent residential areas and the large crowds of patrons in the late hours of the weekend. The City is attempting to address these problems and Council last night approved the Late Night Entertainment Establishment Ordinance. The ordinance must go through another two readings in its passage and most likely there will be amendments. But from the enthusiasm expressed last night, its passage seems inevitable.

Police Chief Mullen headed the committee tasked by the Mayor to develop an ordinance. In his comments last night, Chief Mullen acknowledged the extensive input of other departments, citizens and business owners. He did not think that the conditions imposed by the ordinance were unduly heavy and noted that many/most of the affected businesses were already meeting the requirements of the proposed ordinance.

Quoting from the memorandum of the Mayor The ordinance would apply to businesses open to the general public after midnight that have Class 7(a)business licenses (the businesses whose sale of beer, wine or alcohol for on-premise consumption exceed 35% of total sales). These businesses would be required to employ reasonable management techniques to contain crowds, noise and litter, to include adequate security staffing after midnight. The ordinance also establishes a staff committee to review preliminary plans for an establishment.

Viewers can see the proposed ordinance by pressing Download file

Perhaps the two most important features relate to noise and security. Where music is played after 11 pm, the establishment must close all doors. Even if the doors are closed and the music can be heard beyond 50 feet from the entrance to the establishment, there will be a nuisance violation. Affected establishments must also provide security officers after midnight. There must be one security officer for every 100 people as allowed by the establishment’s maximum occupant load. The officer/officers must be on duty regardless of the number of patrons present. Also, after midnight, establishments will be required to have a security manager for the first three to seven security officers. Unlike the security officers, the security manager does not need to be devoted exclusively to security.

There were questions for the Chief about security personnel and the financial burden on establishments. The Chief noted that there was only one establishment on the Peninsula with an occupant limit exceeding 300. He didn’t say but the inference was that most affected establishments would be required to retain less than 3 security officers. But he did say that many establishments were already employing security staff and would not need to increase their number.

Council member Alexander wondered as to whether the ordinance should make some training mandatory for security personnel employed by the establishments. Chief Mullen though this could be a good idea. Most likely, staff will work on an addition relating to training for insertion at the Second Reading.

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Council continues to struggle with the issue of storage of solid waste and recycling containers. Some Council members and Officer Riccio of the Livability Court would like to see the containers placed somewhere inconspicuous on citizens’ properties – in the back yard, on the side. But some properties, particularly on the Peninsula don’t have space to hide these bins. What do they do? And besides, isn’t mandating the placement of containers a too great infringement of government?

Council member Seekings was clearly for the amendment dealing with the placement of containers. The amendment dictated that containers not be visible from the right of way that fronts a premise. If there were no rear yard or screened area, then placement by the side of a premise was OK but with conditions.

From the comments of other Council members, Council member Seekings sensed that the proposed amendment would be rejected by Council. He commented that Council needed to assist Officer Riccio in his duties and moved that the staff again consider the amendment to make it more acceptable to Council. Good luck staff! Council member Seeking’s proposal was accepted 8 to 5. We think some on the winning side voted only to give staff a chance – the members were skeptical of the amendment and most likely will vote against it at the next hearing.

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The Planned Unit Development (PUD) covering 462 acres at Plow Ground and River Roads passed its second and third readings last night but not without discussion. (See our City Council report of April 23, 2013 for First Reading comment) Two citizens rose in Citizens Participation rose to speak on the issue. The first noted in approving the PUD, Council had ignored the decision of the Planning Commission (unanimously against it). He also noted that the Council had ignored the offer of the property owners to scale back the commercial and retail components of the PUD. Like some other citizens at the last Council meeting, he considered the scale of these components too large and incompatible with the character of Johns Island. He asked Council to reconsider its decision to ignore the offer of the property owners.

The second speaker was County Council member Rawl who stated he represented his and the two other families that owned the properties. After giving a brief history of the ownership, zoning and issues with the City, he urged Council to vote for the PUD saying it was a good deal for the City and Johns Island. He noted that there were few employment opportunities on Johns Island and the creation of retail and commercial space should go some way in attracting industry and employment. This also would reduce the daily traffic flow on and off the island since people could live and work within close proximity rather than having to commute on and off the island each day to work.

Led by Council member Hallman, a number of Council members spoke to the issue again. Council member Hallman said that he spoke to Planning Commission members and they indicated that the concern of the Commission was only over the scale of the retail and commercial developments. Should Council take another look? The answer was no!

Most agreed with County Council member Rawl and noted the need for the retail and commercial space on the Island. Mayor Riley also noted that about 50% of the property would remain open space and although this would mean a higher dwelling density (one dwelling per acre) in the other half, it was better than having one dwelling per 1.5 acres over the whole area owned by the families. The Second and Third readings passed with only one vote against.

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