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Informal Neighbor Meeting February 13, 2020, 5:30 p.m.

Topic: REZONING TO B2 to operate a state-owned ABC Store in Shoppes of Midtown, a Limited B2 retail center in the Old Dauphinway Historic District, corner of Catherine St and Government St




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Representatives from the following member groups of the Government Street Collaborative, a Community Action Group ( attended: Leinkauf Historic District, Flo Claire Neighborhood Association; Old Dauphinway Historic District, Oakleigh Garden District; Dexter Street Porch Society, as well as project participants: Mr. John Vallas, Development Project Realtor; Mr. Joey McCullough, representing Shoppes of Midtown owner, and ABC Representatives

It should be noted that at the time of this meeting, the application had just been posted online hours earlier and some residential representatives present had not yet read the full application, nor had they read the Staff Recommendation. Some at the meeting were under the impression that the application was for a waiver to the LB2 zoning in order to operate a state owned ABC Store.

The application is to up-zone from LB2 to B2, but with an extensive list of voluntary exclusions that exclude virtually all uses not currently in operation, as well as private package stores, allowing only the state-owned ABC store.

Mr. Vallas made introductions and gave brief remarks about the project. He pointed out that Shoppes has been locally owned for 2 years for the first time in its history, having previously been owned by an out of town corporation. He turned the meeting over to ABC representatives, who gave attendees a handout about ABC operations and presented an overview of the statewide ABC Agency’s role, mission, and operations, then offered to answer questions. It emerged in the discussions that the Broad Street store is being closed, the stores statewide are being renewed/renovated to new aesthetic standards such as granite counters, on trend colors, use of exterior brick and interior tile, bright lighting, etc. There were comments that sites such as McGowan Park, or similarly in other towns, lessen the potential for negative impacts from liquor sales. A “stand alone” ABC store on Government Street or in another currently vacant building on Government Street would be alternatives to this site.

Using the pre-meeting questions which had been generated from input from the participating neighborhood groups, the following answers and comments were made:

Questions/Concerns Expressed by Area Residents: Zoning Concerns (Zoning, Impact on both residents and other current or potential tenants, ARB standards, Site Issues, etc)

  1. Retain the existing LIMITED B2 zoning; seek operation only through a variance specific to the type of store planned (state-owned ABC Store) A. THE CURRENT ZONING OF THIS DEVELOPMENT IS LIMITED B2. THIS PROPOSAL SEEKS TO UP-ZONE TO B2, and PROVIDES A LONG LIST OF EXCLUSIONS IN AN OWNER’S VOLUNTARY COVENANT, THAT EXCLUDES ALL B2 OPERATIONS OTHER THAN THOSE BASICALLY ALREADY IN OPERATION (RETAIL AND FOOD SERVICE) AS WELL AS PRIVATE PACKAGE SALES, ALLOWING ONLY A STATE OWNED ABC STORE. B. NEIGHBORS WILL CONSIDER ASKING FOR THE LIMITED B2 ZONING TO BE RETAINED WITH A WAIVER TO OPERATE A STATE OWNED ABC STORE. C. The application has now been submitted and is available online at D. The voluntary exclusions which the owner is offering is extensive and is attached. Voluntary exclusions run with the land in the same way that Zoning does. Therefore, if this property is redeveloped or owners change, the exclusions remain in effect. E. Many area resident leaders feel that this fact and because the exclusions are so extensive argue against B2 up-zoning. This development has existed since its beginning as Limited B2. What retail tenant has been excluded because of this zoning? What restaurant has been excluded? What is the need for the up-zoning when an ABC store can operate on a waiver? F. The Planning Commission who hears this case has the authority to retain the Limited B2 zoning and ask the applicant to resubmit for a waiver to operate the State Owned ABC Store. However, doing so may nullify the voluntary exclusions offered. G. Further the Staff Recommendation, published online as residents were preparing to meet on Feb. 13, is for DENIAL of the up-zoning to B2, largely because of the extensive list of exclusions, which Staff states makes the application approach “contract zoning,” counter to Mobile’s Zoning Ordinance.

  2. Submit (to area Historic District Board) a copy of the voluntary restrictions offered by the applicant This has now been provided

3. A commitment, written into the record, to exterior features consistent with the historic districts: No digital signage, appropriate door canopies, low impact signage (see below), camouflaged or visually low-impact security features such as security gates installed inside behind smoked glass. Strict adherence to city Sign Ordinance as to temporary window signage and the allowed percentage of window coverage standard. Mr. Vallas made a note for the project description to include that no exterior “riot style” or “bar style” or “garage door” style security gates would be used on the exterior storefront, Mr. Vallas made a note for the project description to include strict adherence to the Historic District/Government Street District frontage city Signage Ordinance: ARB standards, no digital signage, historically sensitive signage, limits on temporary signage and window coverage, etc. Mr. McCullough of Shoppes of Midtown agreed to these standards.

4. Assurance stated in the application that no waiver to add curb cuts will be needed and no future expansion of the square footage for alcohol package sales within the mall’s footprint will be sought.

Mr. McCullough of Shoppes of Midtown agreed no new curb cut is needed. No clear commitment was made that future expansion within the mall footprint would not be sought. Mr. McCullough stated the combined square footage of the two vacant spaces is 3400 SF.

5. Site issues: Improved lighting, including regular replacement of nonfunctional lights;

use of historically appropriate lighting; Improvement of Catherine Street exit apron, which drops off to street level too sharply.

The neighbors asked who is responsible for these issues and who could neighbors contact when problems arise. Mr. McCullough said this is the responsibility of SOM local owner, and that he, Mr. McCullough, is the contact. He gave out his business card. Mr. Vallas stated that the exit ramp to Catherine Street would be addressed, and that the city has required that.

6. Is there a state “standard” for proximity of liquor sales— to manage over-concentration and if so, what is the standard? In that regard, does the standard consider density of private retail liquor sales in the same area? What assurance can the state offer to manage liquor package sales concentration in, for example, a designated radius such as .5 mile?

The ABC representatives stated there is no state standard to control over-concentration of liquor sales; that is the responsibility of the municipal government through zoning. There is currently a private package store in operation about one mile west on Government Street.

Concerns about the Operation of an ABC Store

Litter, inadequate lighting, onsite crime, loitering or panhandling, and a negative perception of safety will impact residential quality of life and property values, patronage for existing tenants, discourage new desirable tenants, and negatively impact neighbor patronage of the ABC store.

  1. Commit to aesthetic appeal by eliminating: prison-like exterior metal riot/security cage/doors Mr. Vallas noted and the representatives all committed to not installing exterior metal security gates; postings of criminals on entrance and exit doors and windows The ABC representatives said this is not required policy to be posted to the exterior and sidewalk, and should not do so, but added this is a store manager area, and neighbors should report to the store manager first, then to the ABC if not resolved there.; inadequate exterior lighting Mr. McCullough said call him with complaints about lighting outages; other exterior features such as low impact permanent signage (non-neon, historically sensitive, non-digital, indirect/up-lighted/or halo lit, per ARB standards), elimination of temporary signage ABC now uses an attractive, low impact storefront sign (see that at McGowan Park), no digital, and representatives committed to ARB Historic District Signage Ordinance standards; appropriate canopies if used, etc. All committed to ARB standards/decisions Strict adherence to the city Sign Ordinance for historic districts. All present committed to this. Consider aesthetic features such as oversized and well maintained sidewalk planters to improve exterior appeal. Exterior features would not be changed and coordinates to the present mall exterior; interior standards for this store will be somewhat high end, with granite counters, tile floors, etc. ABC representatives provided photos of Montgomery and other stores showing an interior that neighbors will be comfortable shopping in.

  1. Hours of Operation: Most who responded prefer a 6pm or 7pm closing, no late hours.

Mr. Vallas noted, and the representatives stated, they will recommend no later than a 7pm closing. Neighbors pointed out that the Broad St store closes at 6pm. We believe neighbors will have to make our requests known to the state ABC leadership on hours.

3. Management Policies: On-site security is desired to insure safety of other shoppers to the center and to address panhandling, loitering, crime, and littering; availability of

ABC Store Operation Policies and Regulations and how citizens may submit concerns;

Job description of store managers and how they are authorized and expected to address

loitering, panhandling, litter and littering.

This was discussed at length and neighbors expressed a need to insure that loitering, panhandling, and littering not develop. The ABC representatives stated that the state legislature declined to make panhandling a crime, which does limit the manager’s authority. The neighbors discussed that an ability to purchase single-consumption miniatures or small volumes of liquor encourages panhandling outside in order to make an immediate small purchase. The ABC representatives state that managers are trained how to monitor and address loitering, but the manager’s effectiveness also depends on local law enforcement.

This led to a discussion of how “select” the liquor for sale would be, as customers shopping for more expensive and premium liquor will increase store profits and activity. The representatives stated that the store inventory is market driven, and requests can be made often enough for managers to stock premium liquor, but if premium remains on the shelf, it will not be carried. Neighbors asked that the transaction records from Old Shell Road store would be more indicative of what this store should carry than Broad Street, and asked that the Old Shell store be used to set the standard for inventory at this store. There was no clear commitment to this from the ABC representatives, whose position remained that inventory is market driven.

Mr. McCullough stated that SOM management commits to daily sweeping of the parking lot (which is currently being done. ) Neighbors present agreed that litter has improved. The ABC representatives stated that onsite security is the responsibility of the mall management, and Mr. McCullough stated he is open to addressing loitering or panhandling, if those develop, by adding security on site, especially during peak hours for these problems.

4. Traffic: What statistics can the State ABC provide as to projected customer traffic, given existing stores on Old Shell and Broad? Is their actual average and maximum

patronage at those two stores available, and if so, what is it?

ABC representatives stated they can provide transaction count statistics from the current stores at Broad and Old Shell, and will do so.

5. Closures: Does the state own the building on Government Street near the bus station

where the ABC store is closed? Why has the signage for that closed store not been

removed? What is the state’s plan for that site (if owned by state) and for the Old Shell Road and Broad Street locations?

The current number of ABC stores is at the state maximum, and new stores cannot be added. Therefore, only when a store closes can another be opened. This does not include private package stores. This store will open when the Broad St store closes, so Old Dauphinway will not have two stores. ABC stores are never owned by the state but handled through lease arrangements only. Store closures are determined by the market and occasionally by other factors. The proposed store at Shopped of Midtown would be on a ten year lease arrangement.

Other Questions, Comments:

1. Another neighbor repeated that the inventory for the Broad St store is not an appropriate guideline for this store. The success or failure of this store—in terms of both its market and becoming a contributing neighbor to the other and potential tenants and the surrounding area— would be determined early on, because if the first impression is a lower end store without enough premium selection, neighbors who are already shopping Old Shell and McGowan Park will return to those stores. It is not likely that consumers will “work” to “help build” the inventory by making constant requests at the new store. Further, even the effectiveness of making requests is dependent on the manager. Therefore, we ask that the opening inventory reflect the inventory of the two stores where most of our neighbors currently shop—Old Shell and McGowan Park. That will be necessary to draw our neighbors’ business into this store.

We also ask that single-serve miniatures not be offered, but rather only multi-pack miniatures.

The ABC Representatives stated they would ask their supervisors about this.

**We ask for a response on these 2 issues prior to the hearing date.**

2. One neighbor asked what could be done to resolve the problem of cars parking along the storefront curbs, especially for pizza pickup. Mr. McCullough said because this is private property, the parking is not really a matter of “illegal” parking, so enforcement is a problem.

Note: Owner could investigate the Fire Department policies about clear fire lanes in front of public buildings. If applicable, use “No Parking” and/or “ Fire Lane” signage and color-coded striping and curbing to curtail nuisance parking. Another possibility is to redesign and re-stripe the driveway, set it further out from the storefronts to provide room for diagonal parking bays strategically placed to provide some quick-stop pizza pickup parking, combined with exterior furnishings and/or above-grade planter boxes, bicycle racks, or other sidewalk-scaping along the storefronts.

3. Foosackly Restaurant: Following discussion of the ABC Store, Mr. Vallas and Mr. McCullough answered questions about a proposed Foosackly in Shoppes of Midtown.

This would be a new building, self contained in the Shoppes of Midtown Parking lot, on the southeast corner of the lot, designed similarly to the Publix Shopping center on Old Shell Road. The site plan would call for no oak tree removals, and all traffic circulation would occur within the current parking lot footprint with no new curb cuts to Government Street or sidestreets. There would be a drive thru. The planned building is brick and would have to meet ARB approval. The current Limited B2 zoning allows the development.

Mr. Vallas offered to set up another meeting with this group and the Foosackly owner. Mrs. Bolton suggested we wait until after Mardi Gras Season, with a date TBA. No application has been submitted and Mr. Vallas committed to a meeting prior to any application.

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