A new business on St. Louis Street may be the impetus for a change in the zoning regulations that require businesses to have off-street parking on a street even if little parking exists.

When Cynthia Thiemet sought permits to open a bar called Handlebars at 147 W. St. Louis St. officials steered her toward requesting a zone change for the property to a planned unit district (PUD) zoning district so aldermen could legally grant her permission to park on the street.

Ward 1 Alderman Ed Gass said the cost of the PUD was prohibitive for a small business like a tavern.

“She is trying to rent a tavern,” Gass said. “Are we making her pay $2,000 for a PUD to say her customers have to park on the street? It sounds like extortion.”

City Engineer Ran Rahn said the business requires a conditional use permit (CUP) because it’s a tavern.

“The hangup is parking,” Rahn said. “There is no off-street parking for the business.”

But there wasn’t off-street parking when Rich Stevens operated RJ’s at the same site, Alderman Mike Bates said and the same conditions existed when Stevens rented the building to the operators of Fire and Ice, another tavern.

“When the former tavern occupied that building the city considered it an existing nonconforming use and determined not to pursue a PUD,” Bates said.

City Attorney Dan Vogel said the city could eliminate the $2,000 cost if the city made the request for a PUD to the Pacific Planning and Zoning Commission.

Mayor Herb Adams said it’s time for the city to amend the zoning ordinances so every individual who wants to open a business in one of the St. Louis Street buildings does not face the same situation.

Adams said he and the staff were taking measures to offer some assistance to the old town section of the city.

“We’ll bring an ordinance to P & Z so we can correct the parking requirements for businesses down there,” Adams said. “We’re looking at making that part of town a historical district.”

The city will request the zone change to a PUD for the building, Adams said.