Anniston approves moratorium on bars downtown, considers creating historic district
by Patrick McCreless
pmccreless@annistonstar.com
Feb 24, 2014 | 6462 views |  0 comments | 94 94 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Anniston City Council had its first reading of an ordinance to create a historic district downtown. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
The Anniston City Council had its first reading of an ordinance to create a historic district downtown. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
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Anniston will halt any new bar or club from opening downtown for the next three months, giving what city official say is the time to plan how to develop and improve business in the area.

The City Council approved the moratorium during its meeting Monday. City leaders say it's needed to possibly develop an entertainment district for downtown where future bars and clubs would be located. Some downtown redevelopment experts say creating districts for entertainment and other categories such as retail businesses help revitalize downtowns.

Mayor Vaughn Stewart said the city is considering developing a master plan for the downtown area. Through such a plan certain types of businesses, such as bars or restaurants, would be clustered together to benefit each other, Stewart said.

"But this just gives us a chance to catch our breath and plan ... what the downtown is going to look like in five or 10 years," Stewart said.

Stewart said the city has interests in creating an entertainment district, but also possibly downtown districts retail shops and housing.

"If you're going to be a vibrant city, you start with your core," Stewart said of the downtown.

City Manager Brian Johnson said he expects to have the first details of a possible plan for the council by the end of the moratorium.

"By the end of the 3 months, I need to have something for the council that says, 'Hey, we can go with this or we need to let this go for another 3 months," Johnson said.

During a Monday phone interview Mary Helmer, president of Main Street Alabama, said creating designated districts for businesses helps improve downtown areas overall. Main Street Alabama is a nonprofit that helps cities revitalize their downtowns.

"It helps to cluster like businesses ... the better clustered they are, the better it is to capture traffic," Helmer said of downtown districts.

For example, more residents are willing to visit a retail store if there are other retails stores nearby to shop at and compare prices, Helmer said.

Helmer noted, however, that not just any city can create such districts.

"Every town is unique and it doesn't make sense for every town to have them," Helmer said.

Kathy LaPlante, senior Main Street program coordinator for the National Main Street Center in Chicago, agreed with Helmer that districts can be beneficial to downtowns.

"It's really just about drawing attention to the downtown," LaPlante said of creating districts. "The Main Street approach is about all those things."

Along with the moratorium, the council had its first reading of an ordinance to create a historic district downtown. The council will vote on the ordinance at its next meeting. The district would include 260 addresses, with properties between 9th and 14th Streets and along 15th Street between Cooper Avenue and Walnut Avenue. The goal of the district is to preserve the historic integrity of downtown Anniston.

John Valieant, chairman of the Anniston Historic Preservation Commission, which on Oct. 17 approved the resolution to create the district, said during a Monday phone interview that such a district will help the downtown area grow.

"It will benefit hopefully to bring tourists," Valieant said. "It will also help by keeping somebody from coming in and just taking a historic building down ... that person will need to come before the commission to get approval."

Also during the meeting, the council tabled appointing Roderick Lemon to the McClellan Development Authority until the next council meeting. The usually unified council showed rare disagreement on the topic, with members Jay Jenkins, Millie Harris and Stewart voting to table the appointment. Councilman Seyram Selase, who nominated Lemon, and councilman David Reddick, voted not to table the appointment.

Selase said it was his turn to make an appointment, and he should be allowed to do so. Lemon is an Anniston resident who owns VIS Management, a janitorial firm.

"He should really be on that board," Selase said.

Jenkins said he had no problem with Lemon being on the board. However, he preferred the appointment was delayed until the council has its March 1 retreat. At the retreat, the council plans to discuss changes to how it appoints board members, such as requiring them to fill out an online application.

"My request is we simply delay this," Jenkins said.

The council also gave Johnson the authority to spend up to $350,000 in fire tax money to purchase the vacant Marvin's building and surrounding property on Alabama 21 to build a new fire station. Stewart said the fire station at McClellan was no longer adequate to serve the area.

"The current fire station at McClellan is deteriorating and cannot be rehabbed as a fire station," Stewart said.

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.

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