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Aldermen to call for public hearing on leisure district

 

From left, Chris Latimer, Roy A. Perkins, Lynn Spruill, Jason Walker, Sandra Sistrunk and Patrick Miller

From left, Chris Latimer, Roy A. Perkins, Lynn Spruill, Jason Walker, Sandra Sistrunk and Patrick Miller

 

 

Alex Holloway

 

 

Starkville aldermen will likely call for a pair of public hearings on creating a leisure and entertainment district when they meet on Tuesday. 

 

During a Friday work session, aldermen worked to iron out some of the remaining details in the ordinance that would create the district where patrons could use "go cups" to leave restaurants with alcohol. 

 

The district, as currently proposed, stretches along Main Street and University Drive, from City Hall to the pedestrian bridge over Highway 12. Under the proposed ordinance, restaurants within the district could sell patrons city approved plastic cups that are no larger than 16 ounces to take drinks with them when they leave restaurant premises. 

 

Aldermen will hold two public hearings, the first of which would be set for March 6, before they can vote to adopt the ordinance. If adopted, the ordinance will take effect 30 days after the vote to approve it, according to city attorney Chris Latimer. 

 

The ordinance would take effect for a 90-day "trial run," if adopted. After that, Latimer said during Friday's session, it will become permanent unless aldermen amend or rescind it. 

 

Under the proposed ordinance, people can use go cups in the district from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. 

 

The ordinance limits cups to one per patron, and ensures no one can enter a licensed restaurant with alcohol, whether purchased at that restaurant or elsewhere. It also forbids patrons from coming into the district with alcohol that wasn't purchased at a restaurant within the district or carrying an open container that isn't one of the city approved cups. 

 

 

 

'They're gonna be drinking alcohol in your neighborhood' 

 

During the session, Latimer also pointed out a new provision that allows go cups for city-approved special events, where the streets are closed for the event that allows go cups outside the leisure districts normal boundaries. 

 

"We clarified that if it's a special event sanctioned by the city, where the applicant goes through the special event permitting process and streets are closed in relation to that process, then people can have go cups in that street even if it's not in the district," Latimer said. 

 

Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins, who previously called the ordinance "another whiskey bill," expressed some concerns with the measure. 

 

Perkins questioned whether that provision could apply to events such as an annual fall event in Westside Park. Latimer said that it was possible under the current draft of the ordinance, if an event met the needed criteria. 

 

"I just want to be sure that the public knows that if we pass this ordinance with this language, they're gonna be drinking alcohol in your neighborhood," Perkins said. "If you want to limit this to the (Cotton District Arts Festival) or Market Street or whatever you want to limit it to, you need to tie your language into that." 

 

During the talk, Mayor Lynn Spruill said aldermen have discretion in what events it chooses to approve, since special events require board approval. 

 

"That's for the board's determination on any special event that comes to us," Spruill said. "If it's in a neighborhood that's not necessarily conducive to that event, then we might want to say otherwise." 

 

Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker said he thought Perkins brought up an "excellent" point. 

 

Latimer said he could limit the language further at the board's direction. 

 

 

 

Area considerations 

 

During Friday's discussion, aldermen shared their thoughts on the district and discussed possible alterations to its size, such as limiting it to downtown. Aldermen didn't change the proposed area Friday, though it's possible that modifications could come before a vote to adopt the ordinance. 

 

Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk said she has given some thought to the city starting with a smaller area for the district to "work out the kinks," then look to expand the area from there. 

 

"I personally am more inclined to be supportive of something that starts in the downtown area," Sistrunk said. "Once we've determined that this is something we can do, that's manageable, we can start to roll it out to other areas." 

 

Ward 5 Alderman Patrick Miller said he understood Sistrunk's concerns, and had given the some of the same thoughts to the restricting the area. 

 

However, he said he thinks the ordinance's time limitations will help with safety concerns. He added he doesn't want to further a divide between the Cotton District and downtown. 

 

"I feel like, if we start with a divide between both, we're not going to see the two connect," Miller said. "I feel like it's going to limit the Cotton District as well. And really, I don't want view as the Cotton District and downtown. I envision the development of that entire street -- it should be one flowing, connecting district or whatever you want to call it from Main Street to the university."

 

 

 

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