The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

January 16, 2013

Councilman to church: Barricade parking lot

By Jean Cole

— An Athens city councilman said Monday if the First Baptist Church wants to prevent people who have been drinking at the Event Center from parking in its lot then they need to barricade it.

Councilman Jimmy Gill made the comment during a public hearing on a request by the Rotary Club for an alcohol license for a Feb. 9 special event at the Limestone County Event Center in Athens.

After the request was introduced, Council President Harold Wales told fellow councilmen he had received a letter of strong opposition from First Baptist Church minister Joe Teal. In the letter, Teal told the council he and other church members did not want people attending the Rotary event to park in the church’s youth center parking lot across the street because the event would include alcoholic beverages. Some church members believe that allowing people who have imbibed at the Event Center to park in the lot is unsafe and sets a poor example for youths.

Wales, who is a member of the church, told council members he did not necessarily share the opinion but wanted to convey the church’s sentiment. He also said he is a strong supporter of the Rotary.

Gill responded by saying the parking issue was the church’s.

“This is not a city issue,” Gill said. “The parking lot belongs to them so they need to put up a barricade.”

With that, council members voted unanimously to approve the Rotary’s request for a special event alcohol license.

The law

Members of First Baptist Church have come before the council before to protest use of their parking lot by those consuming alcohol at Event Center events.

In January 2011, they protested a request by the National Wild Turkey Federation (advocates of the bird not the booze) for a one-night special-events alcohol license for the Event Center. They argued that the city’s ordinance requires 500 feet between a church, school or child-development center and an establishment selling alcohol. However city officials said the Event Center is zoned B-4 business district, which allows an exception. Alcoholic beverages are allowed if there are at least 50 feet between the front doors of the buildings in question.

Similar action

Council members also held public hearings on four other business and group requests for alcohol licenses for either off-premise sales or special events and later in the meeting voted 5-0 to approve them, including:

• Cheva Associates LLC at 15923 Athens-Limestone Drive for the Exit 351 Chevron behind Chick-fil-A;

• Soham Enterprises at 1113 W. Market St. for the Tanner Chevron at 20531 Huntsville-Browns Ferry Road;

• Anjali Inc at 25966 U.S. 72 East for the new Exxon station at the end of McCulley Mill Road;

• Bella Foods for Piggly Wiggly at 100 U.S. 31 South;

• National Wild Turkey Federation special event Feb. 1. The request must still come before the Alabama Beverage Control Board for approval.

Other business

In other business, Council members took the following action:

• Voted 5-0 to amend the definition of “conditional uses in an agricultural district” zoning to include mini warehouses and governmental uses facilities;

• Voted 5-0 to approve a request by Betty Sue Christopher to annex and rezone property at 17893 W. Market St. to residential R-1 (2) zoning;

• Voted 5-0 to set a public hearing for 5:30 p.m. Feb. 11 on a request by Greg Crow, Bobbie Evans and Jerry Evans to rezone property at U.S. 31 and Vaughn Drive and U.S. 31 and Evans Drive. The Planning Commission opposed the rezoning in December, according to City Planner Mac Martin because the rezoning plan is not in sync with future land-use plans, because of the traffic it would create on Vaughn Drive and because the current wastewater system is unable to handle the load from the development.

• Voted 5-0 to appoint Donald Mansell as municipal judge and Chad Wise as municipal prosecutor through Sept. 30, 2014. Municipal judges and prosecutors serve two-year terms; 

• Voted 5-0 to revise the organizational chart of the City Clerk’s Department, which includes 10 regular and one part-time position. Wales said the reorganization would result in a $20,000 cost savings and the loss of no one’s job;

• Voted 5-0 to authorize the mayor to enter into a contractual agreement with the state to resurface Lucas Ferry and Sanderfer roads from Alabama 99 to U.S. 31. The bulk of the cost will be paid with ATRIP money and a 20 percent match from the city. Bids will be let on the project in a week;

• Voted 5-0 to authorize the mayor to issue a work order to Blake Galloway for mandatory bridge/structure inspections for fiscal 2013. The 30 bridges or structures will cost $550 each for a total of $16,500. This item is already budgeted and will be paid with gas tax fund;

• Voted 5-0 to adopt the new official zoning map, which will supercede the map adopted Jan. 28, 2008. Martin said the new map incorporates more than 50 changes made since the last time the map was revised;

• Voted 5-0 to reduce from $980,000 to 860,000 the amount appropriated to install sewers in Whitfield and Winslow subdivisions. About $80,000 of the $120,000 savings that will be returned to the capital infrastructure fund may be used to install a natural gas line paralleling Edgewood Road;

• Voted 5-0 to allow the city to call the letters of credit for two developers in order to obtain the more than $100,000 needed to complete sidewalks in two subdivisions, Piney Creek and Willow Point II.