Commission Approves Banquet Centers in Historic Commercial District
St. Charles City Council will consider issue at its next meeting.
A proposal for a banquet facility and chapel on South Main Street took a tiny, first step on Tuesday toward securing necessary approval to move forward.
The St. Charles Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday unanimously approved an amendment to the zoning ordinance to allow banquet and meeting facilities in the Historic Commercial District, an area that spans from Madison St. to just north of Ameristar Blvd. along South Main Street.
But the banquet facilities would not be allowed in the South Main Preservation District, an area inside of the larger Historic Commercial District that stretches between Boone's Lick Road and Madison Street.
Commissioner Richard Baum said keeping banquet and meeting centers out of the South Main Preservation District doesn't say that banquet centers are bad.
"I think it's further recognition that we want to protect our most sensitive areas," he said.
The commission approved both proposals on a 7-0 vote. Commissioners Patricia Lang, Mark Hopkins and Ward 4 Councilmember Mary West were absent. The issue will now go to St. Charles City Council for consideration.
Baum reminded community members that the commission was not considering any specific proposal with the zoning request.
However, the proposed change was requested after Sheri Steffans, owner of Heart of St. Charles Banquet Center, approached the city about building a chapel in the 150-year-old building on South Main Street, and a banquet facility across the street.
The Planning and Zoning Commission held a meeting with Steffans, the city and community residents in March after many business owners on Main Street raised concerns about the zoning change.
Several people have argued that allowing banquet centers would lead to more problems with late-night revelry in downtown St. Charles.
"This is a character-changing use in our historic district," said Holly Haddox, owner of The Conservatory.
Haddox told the commission on Tuesday that she sees this as an example of spot zoning, an occasion where one lot or small area is given spot treatment that's less onerous than surrounding zoning. She said that party centers are more intense in size, volume, noise and parking issues than the rest of the historic district.
Leann Starr, who lives on Jackson Street, said the noise from banquet center patrons could infringe on the rights of people who live in adjoining residential areas.
"There are also issues of increased property issues and trash," she said. "One only has to visit North Main at midnight for an object lesson on what should not be allowed on Main Street."
Joanne Parrot lives in one of the town homes on South Main Street. She said she's concerned that banquet centers in the area would lead to an increase in drunken driving accidents.
Council Can Provide Conditions
Anyone hoping to put a banquet center in the historic district would have to apply for a conditional use permit, which needs approval from both the Planning and Zoning Commission and the City Council.
Conditions are set on a case-by-case basis and are based on the property, traffic and the surrounding neighborhood, said Director of Community Development Bruce Evans.
The commisison has the ability to set conditions that would limit the size of a facility, the hours it is open and the type of items served.
Evans said Steffans has shared some preliminary sketches and building plans for the proposed banquet facility.
He said she has to go through several levels of approval before the plan becomes reality.