A Crichton music ministry and recording studio will be allowed to continue operating while it awaits City Council approval of a zoning change that was previously denied by the Planning Commission.
Councilmembers seemed supportive of the zoning change for Blue Magic Studio on Western Drive, but wanted to limit the property’s use in the future. To do so the council has to advertise the change before voting on it. The board voted to holdover a vote until Tuesday, Dec. 2.
The change would move the property from a business buffer zone, where recording studios aren’t allowed, to an area zoned for heavier business.
During a public hearing, Rodney Toomer, an employee of Blue Magic Studio, said the business was established to profit from professional recording, but a mentoring program aimed at keeping high school students in the area out of trouble is also a big part of it.
“Countless kids come to learn about production and music,” he said. “Whatever we need to do to keep this going, I think it would be a positive for the community.”
City planning staff and the Planning Commission denied approval of the zoning request because it represents spot zoning, which the city doesn’t normally approve, Planner Bert Hoffman told the council.
Hoffman also said it was discovered the studio didn’t have a business license and that the building wasn’t up to code. In addition to more space for parking, the studio might also have to add a bathroom.
“An architect and engineer would have to approve the soundproofing in order to them to get a business license, even if zoning is changed,” he said.
Councilman Fred Richardson, in whose district the studio sits, argued that if the industrial site across the street wasn’t required to provide handicapped parking, than he didn’t see why the recording studio would have to get up to code.
“We’re going to kidnap this one,” he said. “Mr. Big, Mr. Rich doesn’t have anywhere for the handicapped to park, but Ms. Little wants to get a studio going and you have to wake the dead. Let’s rock and roll.”
Richardson said when considering the zoning change he looked at whether the studio was a detriment, or harmed anyone in the community. He said he found no harm and no detriment to allowing the studio to continue operating.
Councilmen John Williams and Levon Manzie said they supported Richardson on the issue. Councilman C.J. Small said he supported the studio, but asked Toomer to bring the building up to code. Toomer said they’d be willing to.
“Letting it go would be very detrimental to the community,” he said.
Councilwoman Bess Rich also seemed supportive, despite stating that she normally sides with staff on zoning issues. She initially suggested a requirement that the building only be allowed as either a studio or as a lighter buffer business.
While Hoffman said city staff initially responded to a complaint about noise coming from the studio via the city’s 311 system, Toomer said the studio has the blessing of many in the neighborhood. The studio has been operating for three years at 662 Western Drive.
In other business, the council approved an agreement with Tyler Technologies to upgrade the city’s software. The approval comes on the heels of news that the city’s 20-year-old server was hacked and city email accounts were used to send out spam, Mayor Sandy Stimpson said.
During his comment period at the meeting, Stimpson said the seven-day email outage resulting from the security breach highlights the importance of the agreement with Tyler Technologies and the need to continue to keep the city’s technology properly maintained.
• The council agreed to holdover for two weeks a vote on an amendment to the litter ordinance that would provide leniency to first-time offenders of the dumpster enclosure provision. The vote was held over to allow the administration to possibly tweak other portions of the ordinance. While the majority of the amended ordinance went into effect on Oct. 1, the dumpster provision is set to go into effect in March.
• The council voted 6-0 to set $41,000 as the appropriate price to vacate the city’s right-of-way on a piece of property at Airport and University boulevards. Councilwoman Bess Rich abstained because she said she didn’t feel there had been enough credence given to long-term planning.
• The council also approved a three-year, $309,000 contract with Johnson Controls for chiller service and maintenance at various facilities.
• The council approved paying $8,945 to Jim Bramblett Productions for the Mobile Police Department’s family intervention team’s “You Have a Choice” video. The council also approved $10,863 to Forward Consulting for more MPD crime prevention programs in the future.
• The council appointed John D. Hunter to the History Museum of Mobile Board.
• Councilman Williams presented city pins to the crew of Ladder 19 of the Mobile Fire-Rescue Department, after he said they helped save his life Oct. 10.
Williams said he was driving back from a council activity on Tanner Williams Road when he started to experience severe stomach pain. He went to an urgent care clinic and then Providence Hospital, before being released and driving home at about 5 p.m. He said while driving he began to lose consciousness, but was able to pull over and call for help.
Crewmembers with Ladder 19 responded and measured his blood pressure at 77/41. He told them he had been given morphine and they began to reverse it.
• Councilman Manzie said there would be an Administrative Services Committee meeting discussing council-appointed boards at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 1.