continues to look at a conditional use permit that could allow a business owner to develop in a banquet center and meeting facility at 1106 Main Street.
But the commission also may consider a second amendment to the city’s zoning ordinance in April that would prohibit banquet and meeting facilities north of that business owner’s property. They would be prohibited along much of north to Madison Street.
The commission met Wednesday night to again discuss a request from Sheri Steffens, owner of , to develop a banquet facility and chapel on a vacant lot where a more than 150-year-old building now stands.
In addition, Steffens would also build a hall with another 3,000 feet of banquet space on a lot across the street,
But the proposal drew negative comments from shop and restaurant owners along South Main at a commission meeting on Feb. 27. Local residents are worried that the banquet centers would add to late-night drinking problem in the area.
The Planning and Zoning Commission makes recommendations to the City Council, which as the final authority on zoning matters.
Commission members on Wednesday night discussed conditions it could place on Steffens as far as a conditional use permit. “What we’re trying to do here in my mind is control the impact in a sense,” said Richard A. Baum, chairman of the commission.
Baum and commission members discussed limiting the capacity of the banquet halls to 150 persons, having them close by 12:30 p.m. or earlier, and including a distance requirement of 2,000 feet between centers.
Commission Agrees to Other Options
The commission finally voted unanimously to leave Steffen’s current application on the table for more consideration at their March 26 meeting.
They also agreed to a suggestion from Ward 1, who is the council’s liaison to the commission, and Evans. City staff will develop a new zoning amendment for the commission’s April 23 meeting that could do two things, Evans said.
The amendment would prohibit banquet centers and meeting facilities in the so-called “hatched” area of the South Main Preservation District, which is inside the city’s larger Historic Commercial District. A definition of banquet centers and meeting facilities also would be added. A public hearing also may be held at the April meeting.
Evans said the change could allow banquet centers and meeting facilities in areas of the Historic Commercial District (HDC) outside the South Main Preservation District. Steffens’ properties are in the HDC but not in the South Main Preservation District.
But Evans said the commission could vote on the Steffens proposal and the new amendment separately at that meeting and send their recommendations to the City Council for consideration in May.
Residents Still Concerned
Area residents, however, again told the commission they were still worried. Other businesses said a banquet center would not add to late-night drinking issues. The problem is with patrons of bars along North Main, they said.
“You can put all the conditions you want in there but at the end of the day it’s about enforcement,” said Steve Powell, the former city tourism director who lives in the area. “And enforcement doesn’t happen, and that’s part of the problem.”
Baum said he understood that residents are concerned. “We’re having these meetings and doing these kinds of things because a lot of us truly believe that (South Main) is really a jewel and should be protected,” he said.
“I’m not convinced and I don’t know if anybody is convinced that this (the banquet center proposal) is a threat to South Main.”
A former St. Charles resident and banker, Rich Hanneken, said he’s been trying to hold bankers meetings in the area but can’t find a meeting space where they could walk and shop in the historic district.
“Please jealously guard South Main in the grid area. Don’t allow craziness in the area because that’s the draw,” Hanneken told the commission. “But let’s have a place where we can go to a meeting and spend money at your shops and restaurants and not create a nuisance,”