The Mobile Planning Commission Thursday denied the application of Tom Townsend and Buzz Jordan to increase the occupancy load for a building at 401 Dauphin St. to allow for an entertainment venue.
The applicants wanted to increase the occupancy load to 907, but any increase of more than 100 requires approval from the commission.
Planning staff recommended denial of the application. Concerns over noise, the increase in occupancy that “far exceeds any of the other uses with the immediate vicinity” and the exclusion of the site from the city’s entertainment district were listed as reasons for the denial recommendation. In addition, staff wrote that there were “more appropriate districts with the Downtown Development District for the proposed use and the proposed occupancy load.”
Townsend said the plan was to turn the building into an entertainment venue, and while there will be the occasional live music performance, he also said the venue could be rented out for weddings and corporate functions. The building would be leased to a tenet that would hold events in the space.
Jordan compared the plans to the Saenger Theater, where comedy and musical acts could perform.
Townsend, a commercial contractor, said they’ve considered soundproofing measures and have met with a soundproofing engineer, in order to keep noise to a minimum.
“We don’t feel like it’s going to be a problem,” he said. “We’re going to control the sound. It’s in the lease.”
The venue would be similar to Moe’s and the Garage, two places that routinely host live musical performances, Townsend argued. It’s also within 60 feet of the Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, which has an occupancy load of over 900, he said.
Jean Lankford, who owns a commercial real estate agency at 356 Dauphin St., said the building is within reasonable distance of more than 225 residents and an entertainment venue shouldn’t be allowed. She went to argue that the City Council had excluded that area from the downtown entertainment district, specifically because of the abundance of residents and small businesses that would be affected by such a venue.
Lankford also brought up the Alabama Music Box and its alleged reputation for “loud music and crowds.” She said the block has experienced a “small renaissance” since the music venue was evicted.
Joseph Black said he and his wife, who both live and work in downtown, said they feared the new venue would negative impact their quality of life.
“I guarantee you it will cause a lot of noise,” he said.
The Mobile City Council will have final approval of the matter.
In other business, the Planning Commission approved the application of McGill-Toolen Catholic High School for a zoning change to allow school property in a residential zone.
The zoning changes, subject to a list of conditions would allow a parking lot expansion at the school. Among the list of conditions was approval of the plans by the city’s traffic engineering department and the Alabama Department of Transportation. Completion of a traffic impact study will also be required.