By Trent Moore
The Cullman Times
Several local residents want their voices heard in regards to a proposed rezoning to create a music venue in Cullman, and here is when they’ll get that chance.
The Cullman city council has set a May 28 public hearing date for the requested rezoning of a 10-acre lot just off Hwy. 157 near Interstate 65, behind the Waffle House restaurant. Local developer Bethany Seidel has asked to change the designation from a Business District (B-2) to an Entertainment District (E-1), with plans to build a live music venue at the location, which is in the heart of the burgeoning Hwy. 157 corridor across from Logan’s Roadhouse and Ruby Tuesday.
The E-1 designation was created along with the city’s alcohol ordinance when legal sales were approved a few years ago, and this would mark the city’s second E-1 zone. Seidel’s request has already received a favorable recommendation from the zoning board.
As word of Seidel’s proposal spread among residents near the area, dozens started petitions and e-mail writing campaigns to halt the rezoning request, for fear it could lead to traffic issues and noise problems. Some residents have also expressed concerns the site could eventually be used for a bar, which would be allowed under the rezoning. Though several restaurants in that area have bars, the city’s alcohol ordinance requires a mix of food and alcohol sales, unless the establishment is in an E-1 district.
“We’ll be inundated with music and traffic,” one nearby resident told the council at a recent work session. “They’ll be coming out into our neighborhoods.”
Council president Garlan Gudger, Jr. said the opposition puts the council in an awkward position, attempting to balance the will of the people with potential economic growth.
“We’re really between a rock and a hard place, because we want the city to grow, but we also want those neighborhoods to remain unchanged,” he said. “If anyone has anything to say on this, that public hearing will be the time to do it. We’ll have the public hearing and a first reading. We could also suspend the rules, if the council is unanimous, and vote it up or down at the time.”
A small crowd of opponents to the zoning change attended a Monday night city council meeting, and Gudger also addressed complaints that the city’s alcohol ordinance isn’t strict enough.
“There is not a silver bullet, and we worked hard to keep things as far away from neighborhoods as we possibly could, and actually created this new zone with different regulations to do so,” he said. “Our job is to hear all the sides, then make a decision. Does it meet the criteria? That’s what we’ll find out.”
Seidel hopes to build a joint-use, outdoor and indoor music venue 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.
Though capacity would be over 1,000, Seidel said most of her potential events would only attract a few hundred patrons.
The facility would also feature a full bar, tap room and brewery, which is why the Entertainment District (E-1) rezone has been requested. The city’s current alcohol ordinance only allows for restaurants to serve alcohol on-premises, so to serve alcohol without creating a full-fledged restaurant, the facility must be in an E-1 zone.
Though some opponents might fear that a rezoning approval will clear the way for a music venue, city building inspector Rick Fulmer noted Seidel will still have to submit a site plan and go through all those additional procedures before building, just like any other prospective developer.
“At this point, the planning commission only looked at it to see if it qualified for rezoning,” he said. “The recommendation was made that, yes, it does qualify. That’s the point it has reached as of right now, and that’s all.”
‰ Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.