Tallmadge -- A request for a conditional zoning certificate to open The Sound Garden Cafe at 290 West Ave. fell on deaf ears at a special Planning and Zoning Commission meeting Oct. 9.
The three commission members in attendance -- Gerald Taylor, chair; Julie Oliver; and Pat Larson -- voted to reject the request from applicant Robert Morrison as being in violation of permitted use, specifically, a city ordinance which states a restaurant serving alcohol may not be within 250 feet of an adult entertainment facility.
The Sound Garden's proposed location in Rocco Plaza is within 175 feet of Adultmart at 292 West Ave., according to City Engineer Roger Lyons' calculations.
Adultmart, Lyons explained, sells adult books, novelties, videos and features several video viewing booths.
The Tallmadge Planning and Zoning Commission met Sept. 5 and scheduled the Oct. 9 public hearing on the request for a conditional zoning certificate so the restaurant, which intends to serve alcohol, can open and operate there. The property is zoned C-4, which allows restaurants that don't serve alcohol.
The special meeting was a continuation from the Planning and Zoning Commission's regular meeting of Oct. 3.
The Commission's concerns from the previous meeting remained unchanged, bolstered by input provided by the Tallmadge Police Department and Mayor David Kline.
Morrison emphasized his desire to create a respectable "upscale sandwich and dinner eatery" featuring acoustic music and serving as an ersatz gallery to showcase the works of local artists. His target demographic, he said, was the 30 and over crowd.
In addition to the permitted use violation, the restaurant's proposed location is also in close proximity to a teen center located in the same plaza, which was also of concern to police and the mayor.
"You assume because I will be serving alcohol there will instantly be problems," said Morrison.
Larson asked if he'd explored other sites within the city.
Morrison said he had, but the price of this particular location was "obtainable for me to chase my model (of a dining establishment)."
Other concerns expressed by the Commission included inadequate parking which could possibly infringe on nearby businesses, and the fact the frontage of the proposed restaurant is not on a main thoroughfare or collector street.
Citing the real estate adage of "location, location, location," Larson wondered if the public would even know the restaurant was there.
"We have a code in place," said Oliver, "I'm confident we need to follow that code. I don't feel (the proposed restaurant) is harmonious with the area."
Oliver also said she was concerned about the Commission setting a precedent it may eventually regret. "It's a slippery slope," she added.
"I welcome The Sound Garden to Tallmadge," said Kline, "but it doesn't meet the conditions of this location."
Morrison's application, which was scheduled for a third reading at City Council's meeting the following night, was moved to a second reading. It will be discussed at the Council of the Whole meeting on Oct. 21 and voted on at the Oct. 24 meeting.
If Council approves the conditional zoning permit request, Morrison would need to obtain a state liquor license to serve alcohol. Morrison's hope was to open The Sound Garden in November or December.
Editor's note: Reporter Holly Schoenstein contributed to this article.
Contact Jaime Gerard at 330-541-9429 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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