Court denies Sunset Overlook’s request

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Judge Julia Gomric denied Sunset Overlook’s request that she reconsider an Aug. 14 order that prohibits the Columbia establishment from certain activities. 

Gomric made that ruling at the St. Clair County Courthouse on Tuesday, after Sunset Overlook on Aug. 23 filed a motion to reconsider her order. 

The order permanently  enjoins the business, located at 11604 Bluff Road, from selling and/or serving food and drink outdoors, providing ancillary entertainment outdoors or providing any ancillary entertainment indoors without  a special use permit. 

Sunset Overlook argued the court should reconsider the order because Columbia Director of Community Development Scott Dunakey has since sent a memo to clarify the city’s interpretation of pertinent zoning ordinances.

Dunakey, who is also Columbia’s zoning administrator, said an establishment zoned like Sunset Overlook is not prohibited from seating patrons outside, providing service to those customers or conducting a transaction outdoors for anything that is not food or drink. 

Dunakey also said his interpretation was that ancillary entertainment was only live music being performed as the primary focus or music transmitted via things like the internet or radio and played over speakers.

Sunset Overlook said the memo fulfills the purpose of the motion to reconsider, which it said  is to “bring to the court’s attention newly discovered evidence not available at the time of the hearing.” 

“This new evidence is directly on point, was clearly not available to any party, including this court prior to the hearing on Aug. 14, 2019 and should now be considered and given the proper deference,” Sunset Overlook’s attorney Daniel Lytle wrote in the motion to reconsider. 

The nearby residents who have been suing Sunset Overlook over “unrelenting disturbances” such as loud music and patrons argued the memo does not represent new evidence or overrule Gomric’s interpenetration of the ordinances at issue in the case. 

Through their attorney Natalie Lorenz, the residents argued the memo itself says it an be overridden by a court and it is not new evidence at all by legal definition, among other points.

“We again feel vindicated that our efforts have resulted in the protection of our property rights, and are grateful for the fair, neutral, and just resolution of this matter,” Lorenz said. “All we have asked is that Sunset Overlook be a good neighbor and follow the law. Today’s hearing solidifies Sunset Overlook’s duty to abide by the city’s zoning ordinances, and we are hopeful that Sunset Overlook will choose to comply going forward.”

Gomric also reserved ruling on the residents’ request she sanction Sunset Overlook for what the residents said were violations of the order. 

Those included patrons eating and drinking outside and Sunset Overlook hosting Xtreme Bar Bingo  after Gomric entered the order. 

Gomric could still impose sanctions at a later date. 

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James is an alumni of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville where he graduated sumna cum laude with degrees in mass communications and applied communications studies. While in school, he interned at two newspapers and worked at a local grocery store to pay for his education. When not working for the Republic-Times, he enjoys watching movies, reading, playing video games and spending time with his friends.