Editor’s Note: The following is a submission from the residents of College Street in Senatobia, MS:
Did you know that Senatobia’s Historical District is getting a new family restaurant? Yes it’s true. This new venue will have cornhole courts for the children, outdoor dining and band music for the adults, and beer, wine and liquor for those guests that want to complement their meal with something stronger than tea or coffee.
No resident of our five star city has expressed any objection to the possibility of us getting a unique “one of a kind” restaurant. BUT, those of us who live on College street have a lot of questions, and we think the proposed location, 105 College Street, is the wrong place to locate this enterprise.
So, in the spirit of Sergeant Joe Friday of Dragnet fame we want to present the “FACTS” of the matter, and let you decide if you agree with us.
The first issue, regarding this matter, is that the parcel of land is not large enough for its intended purpose. If the venture is as successful as we think it will be .71 acres will not contain all of the parking and amenities being proposed. The property is only 30,928 square feet.
The building that sits on the lot is 7500 square feet. The current city ordinance that controls parking at a restaurant facility states that you must have 200 square feet of parking for every 200 square feet of building. This one to one ratio would mean that 7500 feet would have to be allocated to parking for the restaurant patrons and that equates to about 38 parking spaces. If you do the math, that only leaves 15,928 square feet for all of the other amenities.
Overflow parking is issue 2: where do the guests park after the 38 spaces are filled? There are only three possible places: Front Street, the school parking area, or (and this is our concern) up and down College Street. Needless to say, we don’t want cars lining both sides of College Street in front of our beautiful homes and the truth is that you wouldn’t want that either. College Street is a short cut from Hwy 51 to Hwy 4 or downtown. It is highly traveled. Cars parked on both sides of the street would create a congestion problem for this local traffic, and it would be a public safety issue for our local fire department.
The city has owned this property since 1989. It was formerly the Morris Oil Company.
One of the city’s biggest problems today is parking in and around the municipal buildings. 105 College is one logical solution to downtown parking problems. Remove the 7500 sq. ft. building and you have a near perfect parking solution that will add many needed parking spaces.
Because the property was for many years an oil products distribution facility, the possibility exists that their is hydrocarbon pollution. Sale of the property will necessarily require some sign off by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. Possible soil contamination from prior land use is issue 3.
As of Friday May 27, the city did not have in hand, any business plan or drawings for the proposed facility. The new owners will have to present a plan that will pass the muster of our local Historic District Board, which controls all remodeling facades in the district. This is issue 4.
Despite the fact that the negotiations between the city and the potential new owners have been going on since before the Covid 19 crisis, Senatobia does not have a legal offer, acceptance, and contract for the property, and yet our Mayor and Aldermen are busy changing ordinances to facilitate this deal. Something does not seem right about this absence of documentation from the buyer and the seller. This lack of established business procedure is issue 5.
The old Mississippi liquor law that dates back to 1972, clearly states that you cannot have an establishment that serves liquor located within 100 feet of a school, or church.
105 College is less than 100 feet from our public schools.
So, how did it happen that suddenly it is now legal to have a restaurant serving alcoholic beverages located less than100 feet from a public school.
You can thank the Mississippi legislature (both houses and the governor) for this. If you don’t like the law you change it and that is exactly what they did.
The 2021 legislature created a bill that the governor signed in April of this year. It was a bill that designated 105 College as no longer bound by our law of 1972. We now have an amended law. You might get a chuckle out of the title. Hope you are sitting down when you read this.
“AN ACT TO AMEND SECTION 67-1-5, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO REVISE THE DEFINITION OF THE TERM “QUALIFIED RESORT AREA” UNDER THE LOCAL OPTION ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE CONTROL LAW; TO AMEND SECTION 67-1-51, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO PROVIDE THAT THE RESTRICTIONS ON THE MANUFACTURING, SALE AND STORAGE OF INTOXICATING LIQUORS WITHIN CERTAIN DISTANCES OF CHURCHES, SCHOOLS AND FUNERAL HOMES SHALL NOT APPLY TO THE SALE OR STORAGE OF ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES AT CERTAIN LOCATIONS; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.”
So are we to assume that our 5 Star City is now, somehow a “Qualified Resort Area”? You might be interested to know that 105 College was not the only parcel so designated in this law. The second parcel is less than 100 feet from a church and received the same designation. What’s the location? 214 South Ward Street.
No the city does not own that parcel. It is owned by JT Delta Company,LLC.
There are also questions that should be directed to our Board of Aldermen and Mayor. The context of issue 6 deals with the status of the parcel in question.
The bill that the governor signed in April reads as such,
“line 1128, sub paragraph (e)
the distance restrictions imposed in this sub-section shall not apply to the sale or storage of alcoholic beverages in a building FORMERLY owned by a municipality and FORMERLY leased by the municipality to a municipal school district as a district bus shop facility.”
Records show that there is no “FORMERLY” to it. Our city still owns the property, albeit the School District is no longer using it as a bus garage.
So the big question is, “with no business plan, plan-site drawings or contract, why is our Mayor and Board of Aldermen, determined on changing local ordinances? They have already acted on an ordinance regulating noise after hours, and next up is changing the ordinance regulating beer and wine sales to be consistent with the new amended state law. The question is,” why the rush to change things?” This is issue 7.
They have the verbal promises of an individual who has described his vision for the property; but he has put nothing in writing for the public to review: issue 8.
The City has evidently agreed to take the appraised value of the property (approximately $85,000) and add the cost of a new roof (provided by the city) for a sale price of $120,500. There is only one problem. To date they have received one bid for $45,000. If you add that to the appraised value the total is $130,000: unexpected expenses to the city is issue 9.
It appears that it is time for Houston Chadwick and the Rafters Corporation to get serious and give the residents of Senatobia and especially those living in the Historic District something substantive to review and consider: full disclosure is issue 10.
In the meantime, as residents living in the Historic District on either side of College street, we remain opposed to this business being located at 105 College Street.
Residents of College Street,
Jerry Davis, Dianne Davis, Dan Williams, Frances McLain, Erica Gutierrez, Michael Tucker.
*More signatures are available under the heading Friends of College Street and Supporters our Senatobia Schools