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April 7, 2013

Residents concerned about E-1 music venue plan

Entrepreneur promises to address noise, traffic concerns

With a plan to create an Entertainment (E-1) District for a new music venue in Cullman moving forward, residents near the proposed Alabama Highway 157 site have mounted a campaign to halt the project.

More than 45 residents have signed a petition opposing a request to rezone 10 acres near Interstate 65, behind the Waffle House restaurant, to an E-1 District, which has less-restrictive alcohol regulations.

Local entrepreneur Bethany Seidel hopes to build a join-use, outdoor and indoor music venue on the site that could seat approximately 1,500 people for concerts and events. The facility would feature an indoor and outdoor stage, and host a handful of concerts, community events and fundraisers each month.

Click here for previous story on the proposed E-1 District.

The facility would also feature a full bar, tap room and brewery, which is why the E-1 designation is required. The city’s current alcohol ordinance only allows for restaurants to serve alcohol on-premises, unless the business is within an Entertainment District.

But, some residents who live near the proposed venue believe it is not the best location for a music hall. Despite some protestations, the request has received a favorable recommendation from the board and is now headed to the Cullman city council for review. The council could set a public hearing date for the zoning request at a Monday night meeting.

If approved, the request would only rezone the property to E-1. Seidel would still have to go through the proper channels to have her site plan and proposal approved before work could actually begin.

Leon Bentley, who lives on County Road 1163 near the affected lot, said he worries the location is too close to residential neighborhoods to host a music venue. He said an event with more than 1,000 people could also wreak havoc on the traffic flow feeding into Hwy. 157.

“We’re not against entertainment, but this is just too close to residential areas and we feel like with an outdoor theater, one of the biggest problems during summer would be noise,” he said. “I’d anticipate my windows rattling, and also be very concerned about traffic. It’s already very congested trying to get out at the restaurants there, so just imagine how bad this would be. I fear it would overburden the area with traffic and decrease our property values.”

Chris Van Dyke, director of the Cullman Area Mental Health Authority, said his agency is formally opposed to the rezoning for myriad reasons. Most notably: He fears it would open the door for a bar to open across the street from the mental health office, which provides counseling for those facing substance and alcohol abuse.

“We’re worried about the influence it might have on what we’re trying to do here. Some of our adult clients have impulse control problems or decision-making issues, and if people could just leave and walk across the street to a bar that could be a problem,” Van Dyke said. “It’s just a bad location. We’re not opposed to entertainment districts, or a business like this, but the location isn’t a good one. The rezoning would allow for bars or nightclubs at some point on that property, and that’s the problem we have with it.”

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