Sunset Overlook back in business

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The Columbia City Council on Monday night approved several amendments to zoning language in the city’s municipal code.

The amendments create a legal means for potential development of a cannabis dispensary in the city and change regulations for businesses within C-1 “residential business” zones, but most of the discussion was about one existing business.

Sunset Overlook, located at 11604 Bluff Road, was the main topic of conversation at the meeting. The business will immediately benefit from the amendments, as they will now be able to serve food and drinks outside. 

After discussion, the council decided by unanimous vote to approve the amendments as recommended by the Columbia Plan Commission with one exception. The council added language that limits outdoor dining and service “after 9:30 p.m. in yards (of businesses) adjacent to residential use properties.” 

Several residents who live near Sunset Overlook, including Paul Galeski, urged the council to compromise by changing the C-1 amendments to allow outdoor seating in areas that do not face residential properties.

“Plain  and simple, the C-1 discussion is really about Sunset Overlook,” Galeski said during the virtual council meeting, adding that he and others “do not want Sunset Overlook to go out of business…  (they) want to peacefully coexist.”

He also said the city would in effect be condoning “mob rule and political favoritism” if they passed the amendments without including suggested changes. 

Natalie Lorenz, attorney for the residents involved in litigation against Sunset Overlook, responded to the council’s action by stating they are “extremely disappointed” and calling the move an example of “prohibited spot zoning to benefit a single business owner” despite the fact the changes apply to all C-1 businesses and her clients are “currently evaluating all their litigation options.”

Daniel Lytle, an attorney representing Sunset Overlook, said the amendments were not changing anything, rather the new language “is just formalizing the city’s past interpretation of how C-1 businesses should be allowed to operate.”

Julie Ingold, co-owner of Sunset Overlook,  said she was “pleased that the city council has approved language that is consistent with their historical interpretation of the code” and that the business will announce new hours of operation “shortly” on its Facebook page. 

The council also held discussion of a preliminary subdivision plat for a potential development named Country Crossings 2. 

The plat was submitted by Marty Hubbard of Southern Illinois Development LLC, the same developer who applied for a Community Unit Plan Type B that was denied by the council in March. The CUP-B was designed with some lots not meeting R-3 “one family dwelling” zoning size requirements and other variances. 

The new preliminary plat conforms to all R-3 lot requirements. There are two requested allowances on the plat. One is for a “cul-de-sac in excess of the maximum 500 foot” length. The 700 foot cul-de-sac request is to accommodate emergency service vehicles for 15 lots. The other is for a “five-year effective period” for the plat in order to allow construction in five one-year phases. Preliminary plats usually expire after one year.

During a May 26 meeting, the plan commission approved the plat for consideration by the council, who will vote on the matter at its next meeting.         

In other business, the council approved appointments of Brittney Newport, Luke Moravec and Kyle Hannon as full-time police officers.

Also,  a motion to approve a bid for Quarry Road resurfacing was delayed when City Engineer Chris Smith reported the bids received were higher than estimates. He said he is exploring options to reduce expenses or legal options for a possible rebidding of the project.

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