An ordinance that was established to regulate downtown business construction survived Monday night, but not without significant modification.
The governing body voted 7-1 with Matt Childers against to approve the new ordinance that simplified the code, eased restrictions on signs for downtown businesses and gave the Main Street Design Committee more latitude in making decisions.
“The committee now has the flexibility to make changes that aren’t covered by the ordinance,” Councilor Sue Jones said of the changes.
Childers said he was concerned the changes were overreaching and unnecessary.
“I think this dilutes something that has worked,” Childers said. “We watered the ordinance down so that it is easier to get away with something.”
The next order of business was to consider a resolution concerning the Main Street Design Committee to reduce the membership from 9 to 7 to help achieve a quorum and allow downtown business owners who are not building owners to be considered for the committee.
Councilor Ron Reavis made a motion to approve the changes but added an amendment that would not allow council members to serve on the committee.
“I object to that,” Jones said. Matt Malone also objected.
“Of course you would,” Reavis said. Reavis said he felt like it was a conflict of interest to serve on the governing body to make the rules downtown business owners have to follow and also serve on the committee that makes decisions on how to apply those regulations.
Malone said he thought a downtown business owner should be able to have a say even if they do serve on the governing body would have a say by addressing their concerns to the members of the committee.
Reavis said members of the governing body would have a say by addressing their concerns to the members of the committee.
“I resigned my position on the DAI board when I was elected to the council because I worried that it would become a conflict of interest,” Childers said.
The motion to approve the changes with no council members allowed on the committee failed 2-6 with only Reavis and Childers in favor.
Jason Lowery made a motion to approve the changes and limit the number of council members that could be on the committee to a maximum of two.
Mayor Kristey Williams said she did approve of that modification because it is hard to find people to serve on the committee and Councilor Jones had done a good job serving there.
Childers said he saw the moves as an attempt to nullify the ordinance by modifying it rather than voting to have it removed entirely.
Page 2 of 2 - “Mr. Malone was adamant that the ordinance should be nullified,” Childers said. “Now we have changed the wording from ‘shall’ to ‘should’ so we have to hope people do the right thing.”
Jones said the changes were common sense changes to make the ordinance work better.
“We tried to make it so that the committee would have latitude to make decisions,” Jones said. “Before, you had to use Sherwin Williams historic colors. No one wants pink and purple polka dot buildings up and down State Street.”
She also said she was taken aback by Childers insinuation that members of the council would vote their own interest above those of the city.
Councilor Rawlings said she shouldn’t be offended.
“I don’t think you should be offended because this council has offended many people,” Rawlings said. Childers said he was not targeting Jones with his comments but he did believe some on the council had used their position for their own benefit in the past.
Reavis said he meant no offense by his comments but merely didn’t think a council member needed to serve on both boards.
Mike Wallace said he worried that excluding council members from this committee would put the council on a slippery slope for future decisions that would lead to council members being excluded for other reasons, as well.
The motion to limit membership to two council members passed 5-3 with Childers, Reavis and Jamie Crum voting no.