Eminent domain scare attracts a crowd

Highland Mayor Penny Lilburn joins Boy Scouts after the Scouts presented the colors Wednesday, Nov. 12, before the City Council meeting.

Bell Bar liquor license application repealed

By law, residents in the Highland redevelopment area had to be notified of any change or renewal of the area and the Redevelopment Agency's eminent domain policy.

So, when it came time to renew the area and the policy, there arose a cry from those who worried that their homes and/or property might be taken by the city for some kind of development.

They were advised repeatedly that residences are excluded from eminent domain proceedings, but the policy had to be stated as part of the redevelopment area renewal, which was expiring.

“We've had this policy for 20 years,” said Councilwoman Jody Scott, “and we're just renewing that policy. It doesn't change anything.”

The Redevelopment Agency (which is made up of the City Council) ultimately voted unanimously to renew the policy while some residents left, still spoiling for a fight over the issue.

In the special session, being held on Wednesday, Nov. 12, because of the Nov. 11 holiday, the City Council also withdrew approval for a liquor license for the Bell Bar on Palm Avenue.

The application to sell hard liquor had been approved by the Planning Commission after neighbors said owner Bryce Warren was making important changes to improve conditions in and around the bar.

The Planning Commission had demanded that Warren stop the drinking of alcoholic beverages on the back patio, improve lighting, prevent patron parking in the rear of the building, and take steps to reduce the noise level.

However, Karsten Polk, a neighbor of the bar, said Warren had been unsuccessful in controlling his crowd, even though he had tried.

Polk said he had repeatedly called the bar about late night noise, and every time, Warren responded as best he could. However, problems continued despite Warren's best efforts, and Polk did not believe Warren could control his patrons.

“We've had this pattern,” said Polk. “We have an issue and it's quiet for a while, and then there's another issue. He has not passed my test during this period (since Planning Commission approval).”

Warren said he has cleaned up trash -- even when it wasn't his -- and has given his phone number to all the neighbors so they can let him know when there's a problem.

“I love Highland,” he said. “I want to be a good neighbor. I just want to grow my business and grow with Highland.”

Normally, the licensing would not go to the City Council, but Mayor Penny Lilburn said a Council member had requested a Council hearing on the subject, and the City Council has the authority to overturn a Planning Commission decision.

Councilwoman Jody Scott was first to speak out against approval for the license, saying she had received many calls complaining about the bar. Lilburn said she also had been contacted about the problems at the bar.

The Council discussed the possibility of a probationary period, which was already included in the terms of the Planning Commission approval.

However, the council members ultimately voted unanimously against approval.

In addition to the proximity of neighbors to the bar, there are parking problems, and the expectation that new restaurant and entertainment facilities being built would need the liquor license, which are in limited supply.

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