Split City Council Stops Family Entertainment Venue Near Church
SAN ANGELO, TX – The City Council of San Angelo faced a predicament at the October 15th meeting as they heard public comments regarding a new family entertainment venue that was seeking to open on 4382 Southwest, the former All About Signs building.
This new center was introduced to the public as a place where families could take their kids to enjoy games and food trucks; while parents could enjoy a glass of wine or beer. The proposed center faced backlash, especially from the congregation of Green Meadows, who argued, among many things, that the new venue would disrupt their worship services.
The entertainment venue had received approval from the Planning and Development Services in September to change the zoning permit as long as they fulfilled a list of seven requirements. The list included limiting the hours of operations, not opening before 11 on Sundays, following all zoning requirements, adding sidewalks and curb ramps, and adding more parking spaces. The new zoning permit would allow them to host an outside recreational area and apply for a permit serve beer and wine. The City Council was asked to vote to approve the change in zoning permit.
Brittany Ionita and Bryan Benson, who planned to open the new family entertainment venue, were present at the meeting and attempted to explain their vision to the council and the city. They want to open a new venue that allows families with younger children to relax and have a fun family experience. They explained that no venue like it was available in San Angelo and would be a great option for families with kids who wanted to enjoy a relaxing afternoon in a safe and enclosed area.
They told the council that the church had not talked to them about noise level concerns and that they were only looking to have acoustic music, “not rock bands.” The music would have only played during Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night; not interfering with worship times at the church on Wednesday and Sunday.
Several people sent letters of support for the rezoning and gave comments like the following:
“For years the community has needed a fun place for parents to take their children to run around and play,” said Brittney Schniers, owner of Reflections Salon.
“There are so many new families moving into our community asking, “what is there to do with children”, our options are limited.” Laura Vincent Scott, owner of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services.
“The current building has been left disheveled for the past few years and I feel having a venue for families to go and enjoy will benefit the neighborhood and the community greatly,” said Verba Pape.
But one of the loudest opponents, the Green Meadows Church of Christ, voiced their concerns both in letters and at the council meeting. The argument against loud music, disruption of church services, opposing the consumption of alcohol near a church, the safety of kids, and overcrowding of parking lots all came up. With over 20 letters and several congregants present at the meeting, the church made its stance very clear.
“We are a quiet church with no instrumental music. Worshipping God, praying to God, and studying about God all require quietness,” said Don Knight, Elder at Green Meadow Church of Christ, “Aside from it being against our beliefs, it poses the problems of overflow parking on our parking lot, noises from the business interfering with our worship of God, trash and debris by their patrons, danger to us and our young by those that become intoxicated, and also business of this nature would be difficult to communicate with if problems arose.”
“I am a member of the Church of Christ…I feel that our worship services and Bible studies would be negatively impacted and hindered by the noise level this new business would create because of the proximity to our building,” said Deborah Neddo, “I also have concerns regarding the combination of children’s activities with an area designed for drinking and the business being located near a daycare and apartments.”
The council appeared to be split in its decision and for over an hour debated on what the business could change or modify to maintain the zoning permit the area currently had and ensuring everyone was content with the decision. Ionita and Benson expressed their willingness to work with the community, but it appeared they would have to make significant changes to their business plan to accommodate the concerns of the church and the Green Meadows Veterinary Hospital that is next door.
“We are open to ideas. We want to be a good neighbor and have a family-friendly place,” said Benson.
After nearly an hour and a half of public comment and discussion, Council member DeWitt made a motion to deny the new zoning request and was seconded by Council member Hiebert. The final vote was 4-3 in favor of denying the change in zoning request. Council members DeWitt, Lane, Thompson, and Hiebert voted against the change citing their concerns with safety and the response of the business community that operates in the same area as the proposed business. Mayor Gunter and Council members Gonzales and Thomas voted to approve the change, making comments on the benefits it could bring to the city to open a new family-friendly business and occupy a building that has been empty for nearly two years. Thus, effectively making it very difficult for the entertainment venue to open up with the original plan and have to make substantial changes to their vision.
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