By ALICIA LEONARD
In a continuation of a public hearing held on Aug. 3, the DeFuniak Springs Planning Board reconvened on Sept. 8 on the recommendation of DeFuniak Springs City Council to listen to any new information over the request for a special approve/change of use to to operate a bar/tavern within a C-1 commercial restricted district. The board had recommended the City Council to deny the request after the first hearing.
Property owner Jack Bell and legal council Bert Moore attempted to understand the approval process and under what circumstances the special approval could be gained seeking “objective” goals that the agent (manager) for the tavern could attempt to meet to gain an approval recommendation from the board.
Clay Adkinson, legal representive for the planning Board, swore-in any audience members that wanted to speak in the quasi-judicial hearing. Moore asked City Planner Greg Scoville if all of the requirements where the application was concerned had been met. Scoville said to the best of his knowledge the application was complete. After Scoville finished answering Moore’s questions, conversation ensued between the two attorneys and board members over subjective and objective reasoning of a denial or approval.
The only new information provided during the hearing was a traffic study which showed no significant traffic impact associated with the redevelopment process and a list of police calls or calls for service (CFS) for the agent Frede Lopez’s other business, which showed 11 calls over two years that could be tied to the business. The Walton Cafe, according to the information, had 15 similar police calls over the same time period.
The board argued that due to the actual “special approval” needed, the approval process used objective and subjective material and hinged on Sec. 15.08, section three, of the DeFuniak Springs code which states “the planning board shall not approve such a development plan unless it finds that such development plan conforms to all applicable provisions of the zoning ordinance, that health, safety, and welfare of the public are properly provided for contiguous and nearby residential property.”
Board member Kermit Wright said, “I do not see the character and use of a bar and tavern right there. I was selected by a city councilmen to represent the people. I made the original motion for denial of this request and I voted my heart on this.” Wright also noted the first part of section three which states, “In passing upon and approving such development plans the planning board shall consider the location, size, height, spacing, appearance, character and use of any building.”
After almost another hour of discussion, which included Lopez’ employer testifying to Lopez’ good character standing and work ethic, Wright made a motion based on the section of city code mentioned above. Wright said, “Based on 15.08 section three and it being a tavern/bar based in the area of retail shops I see there, I do not see it as appropriate character and use. I move that we recommend denial.”
The board passed the denial of special approval unanimously and it will now come back to the City Council at their next meeting on Sept. 28.
Contact Alicia Leonard at email@example.com
By ALICIA LEONARD