Good news for opponents of the proposed late hours overlay – the Zoning Ordinance Advisory Committee (ZOAC) recently voted unanimously to send the overlay forward with “no recommendation.” The proposal now heads to the City Plan Commission, the Quality of Life Committee, and the City Council. At each stage, the overlay can be passed on with the ZOAC “no recommendation” label, or potentially revived.
To get the inside scoop, we talked to Wes Hoblit, who works at our sister company, LaBarba Permit Service. He’s been following this proposal closely and testified personally at the meeting.
Masterplan: So what’s the crux of the argument against this proposal?
Wes Hoblit: The focus has really been on asking “why is this necessary for a vibrant area to which people are moving SPECIFICALLY for the nightlife?” There was never a true reason that this needed to take place – it was discriminatory, placed undue burden on business owners, and seemed to target an area that didn’t need it.
MP: What were the supporters saying?
WH: One phrase that kept coming up was “it’s just another tool in the toolbox” that neighborhoods could use. However, it’s clear that the toolbox is already full of perfectly good tools (noise ordinance, Resident Only Parking (RPO), TABC complaints, etc.) and adding a procedure that could and likely would be abused by neighbors just isn’t fair to business owners.
MP: Does working in the liquor licensing industry impact how you see this proposal?
WH: Of course. In my testimony, I talked about how difficult it is to obtain a TABC license and to run a profitable business without adding these sorts of additional challenges and costs. I truly agree with the quote I shared, stating it should be just as hard to close a restaurant as it is to open one.
MP: What were some other highlights of the public testimony?
WH: Willie Cothrum (Masterplan’s founder) made a great case against the overlay by detailing how difficult, expensive, and political SUP cases can become [if the overlay passed, an SUP would be required to get around the restrictions]. He talked about how a business can go through the 8-10 month process and STILL be denied, without having a chance to prove themselves. Neighborhoods can essentially band together and stop any business from going in for whatever reason, vindictive of a bad owner or otherwise.
MP: So how did the committee respond to all of this?
WH: ZOAC member Chad Benedict asked a lot of good questions about why this was necessary and laid out why he thought the proposal didn’t make sense. Supporters had tried to make a point about crime rates going down, but the committee essentially threw that out because of the lack of clear correlation. ZOAC Vice-Chair Margot Murphy also kept asking why and trying to determine the true reasoning behind this proposal from staff. And then they voted unanimously not to recommend the proposal, which was a real win for all the very vocal opponents of this measure!
MP: Thanks for taking the time to give us the insider perspective!
WH: My pleasure.
So now you’re up to speed on the overlay – but be sure to keep your eyes on this space for more updates on proposals that affect our community!