Downtown resident Dylan Sherrod asked members of the Mobile City Council on Tuesday to consider connecting the city’s two entertainment districts on Dauphin Street.
Currently the city has one entertainment district that extends from Bienville Square to Cathedral Square and another, which begins three blocks west.
Sherrod, who lives in the three blocks left out of the districts, said he’s hopeful the areas will be connected to help spur development along that part of the street. He told councilors he’s tired of seeing development on the east end of Dauphin Street and then five blocks of vacant buildings.
“As a resident I’m supportive of the change,” he said. “The majority of residents (downtown) are in favor.”
Among the most troubling problems with the entertainment district gap, for Sherrod, is the negative impact it has on development. He told councilors urban developers view the gap as residential and as an example of this, he brought up a Planning Commission decision from Nov. 6.
In that instance, the Planning Commission denied an application to increase the occupancy load for a building at 401 Dauphin St. to allow an entertainment venue. The applicants, Buzz Jordan and Tom Townsend asked the Planning Commission to increase the building’s occupancy to more than 900.
During the public hearing for the November meeting, downtown residents and business owners spoke out against the increase. Planning staff also recommended the application be denied.
The development concerns, Sherrod said, also bring about safety concerns for residents in the area. Without activity on those blocks after 6 p.m. it makes residents more susceptible to crime.
Sherrod presented the council with a change.org petition containing 1,000 signatures and asked the issue be brought to committee.
During a pre-conference meeting Tuesday, councilors discussed legal issues surrounding a connection of the entertainment districts. Council Attorney Jim Rossler said the city is allowed up to two entertainment districts, per state law, but they can only be a certain size.
The entertainment district to the east can’t be expanded because of this law, Rossler said, but there’s still room to expand the western-most district. However, Rossler said, if the western entertainment district on Dauphin Street is expanded to connect to the eastern district he’s not sure if that could still be considered two separate districts.
Rossler told councilors there’s a threat of litigation from some of the residents, based on the city exceeding the maximum length for a district.
“Technically, the western-most (entertainment district) could be extended,” he said. “The question is could you have two districts meet.”
Councilman Levon Manzie, who represents the downtown area, told councilors he met with Sherrod and advised him of the state law pertaining to entertainment districts.
“It hasn’t been but a few months since we made the entertainment districts permanent,” Manzie said. “We didn’t hear from any of them then.”
Regardless, Manzie said he encourages the debate about closing the gap and would take all the information into account.
Townsend also spoke, during the meeting, in favor of closing the gap between the two districts. He said he developed apartments at 459 Dauphin St. and has never gotten a complaint from residents about noise.
The council should be presented in the next few weeks with tweaks to the city’s litter ordinance, which was amended last summer, Executive Director of Planning and Devlopment Dianne Irby said. The ordinance hasn’t been enforced since December. Changes to the ordinance would allow the city to start enforcing the law again.
Some tweaks to the ordinance would include giving business owners a choice on how to handle a mandate requiring dumpsters be fenced in. Instead of requiring a fence, Irby said, the change would give business owners the option to apply a gravity lock to the top of dumpsters. She said the gravity lock opens completely when it is dumped into a truck, but makes it harder for unauthorized personnel to use a dumpster and would prevent dumpsters from overflowing.
In addition, she said business owners would not be automatically ticketed for not having an enclosure around a dumpster and would instead only be ticketed if there’s a problem with overflowing garbage.
Councilman John Williams, who initially had the dumpster provision delayed, said he thought there may be an issue with the gravity locks being compatible with a non-traditional style of dumpster designed to lessen the noise when emptied.
Irby said the city would requiring labeling of dumpsters for multi-tenant facilities. This way, municipal offense officers could ticket individual businesses, rather than a building landlord.
Other tweaks to the ordinance include a reduction in the amount of the fine assessed to offenders and an attempt to make tickets bigger to allow for a better description of the offense.
In other business
The council approved a $106,294 contract with Bagby and Russell Electric Company for the installation of a traffic signal at Pinebrook Shopping Center on Airport. The installation of the traffic signal means the signal adjacent to one of Pinebrook’s exits at McGregor will be taken down, Traffic Engineer Jennifer White said.
The council also appropriated $824,610 in existing capital projects funds for road and drainage repairs throughout the city. The work includes lining of a pipe on Dauphin Street west of Interstate 65, City Engineer Nick Amberger said.
The council approved an $8,713 contract with Johnson Controls to replace a humidifier at the Mobile History Museum.