In a 6-2 vote, the Pacific Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) voted to recommend approval of a small party venue on West Louis Street.
The vote to approve came July 23 after plan board members had postponed action on the measure at the July 9 meeting, sending the applicant to the fire department and health department before they would consider the application for a conditional use permit (CUP).
Trudy Nickelson wants to operate a small party venue in an old mansion constructed by former railroad conductor William Morrill at 455 W. St. Louis St. She told commissioners that she had met all of their requests.
Nickelson said Fire Marshal Ken Prichard approved the use of the property with an occupancy of 30.
Two churches near the property, First Christian Church and Presbyterian Church, both said Nickelson’s clients could use their parking lots.
The Franklin County Health Department said the small party business did not need a commercial dishwashing machine in order to use real dishes for the events. Nickelson cited Tony Buehl, with the health department, who said she only needed a three-basin sink, one basin for washing, one for rinsing and one for sanitation.
The Presbyterian Church, which has a kitchen in its service building on Fourth Street, does not have a commercial dishwashing machine, but does have a three-basin sink. Nickelson said she would be allowed to use the sinks in the church service building.
Linda Bruns, P&Z chairman, said she still had concerns about parking and noise and being too close to houses on each side.
“We are not St Louis. We are Pacific,” Bruns said. “I have concerns about residents in that block. You can control some of the things, but you won’t be able to control it all. I have concerns about having a business in a residential area.”
Her biggest concerns, she said, are the number of cars and noise.
“There are older people in the neighborhood,” Bruns said. “I get up at 4:30 a.m. to go to work and I don’t appreciate noise at 11 p.m.”
Nickelson said the events that she planned would not have noise that was out of place in a residential neighborhood.
“These are not rock concerts,” she said. “This is a wedding rehearsal, bereavement luncheon, baby showers. These are happy times attended by happy people. I don’t anticipate a bar atmosphere.”
Although she used the phrase “my home,” in Pacific, Nickelson said she does not plan to reside in the building. She has acquired it solely for the small event venue business.
“In fairness to me, I can’t be controlling everybody’s every breath. The neighbors can have a family reunion or a birthday party. That’s what it will be,” Nickelson said.
Deserves a Chance
Commissioner Mike Bates said it appeared to him that Nickelson had done her homework. In other cities, party venues are extremely popular. He said he saw the business as underserved potential in Pacific.
“I want to give you a chance,” Bates told the applicant. “People ought to be allowed to use their property for a reasonable use. Everybody will be watching closely (to see if this) business is being a good neighbor.”
Commissioner Gary Koelling said he drove through the area a couple of times on the day of the meeting and counted 20 (vacant) spaces. He said it seemed that if there were 30 people in attendance they would not all arrive in separate cars.
Bruns agreed, saying she anticipates 15 to 20 cars for an event. However she lives two doors from the building and sees that parking spaces are needed by local residents.
“I have neighbors that take up three, four or five spaces,” Bruns said.
Koelling also referred to early arguments by commissioners that once a CUP is issued, the city would not do anything for noncompliance.
“It’s not my job (as a P&Z commissioner) to refuse someone based on someone not doing their job,” Koelling said.
Commissioner Gregg Rahn said he drove to the building before the meeting and between Second and Fifth streets there were fewer than 25 cars on the street.
“I’ve gone down there three or four time between 3 and 7 p.m. and most of the cars on the street were in front of Brown Jerry’s (at St. Louis and Second Street).
Commissioner Mike Bates made a motion to recommend approval of the application as presented, which Rahn seconded. But City Administer Steve Roth, acting as zoning officer, reminded commissioners that in the July 9 discussion they had called for an occupancy limit of 30 for each event and had stipulated hours of operation.
Bates and Rahn agreed that those conditions would still apply.
Commissioners voted 6-2 to recommend approval of the CUP. Bruns and Jerry Eversmeyer cast the no votes.
The measure now goes to the board of aldermen for approval.