The Rolla City Council Monday night approved a new zoning regulation for family entertainment and recreation complexes (FERC).
Immediately afterwards, the council turned down a request by the owner of the property where Fat Cats Entertainment Center is located to approve a conditional use permit that would allow the owner of Fat Cats to open a bar/tavern or nightclub in the building.
But wait, there’s more.
The council also voted to give the owners of the property and the business two weeks to file the paperwork necessary to bring the property in line with the new FERC zoning regulation, a move that would allow the serving of alcohol in the building.
But wait, there’s more.
The council also voted to allow Josh Noe, the owner of Fat Cats to continue operating as he has, selling alcoholic drinks at concerts he promotes at the Fat Cats Entertainment Center through the rezoning process.
But wait, there’s more.
The council also voted to waive any filing fee for Noe or the owner of the property, Charlotte Barrack Trust, as long as the paperwork is filed within two weeks of Monday night’s council meeting.
That’s about all.
The protracted discussions and negotiations and dealings between Barrack Trust and Fat Cats on one side and the city government on the other continued Monday night when the council took up for final reading an ordinance that would have allowed a conditional use permit (CUP) for establishment of a bar/tavern or nightclub at the property located at 1100 Highway 72 East, behind The Family Center.
Community Development Director John Petersen noted the applicant for that CUP is Barrack Trust, not Fat Cats, and he remarked that at this point, the CUP technically didn’t have anything to do with Fat Cats.
That brought an outburst from Councilman Tony Bahr, who said, ”It has everything to do with Fat Cats,” setting the tone for the subsequent discussion.
Petersen continued that the Planning and Zoning Commission had voted 6-2 to recommend the CUP with five conditions added to it, primarily requirements for actions to cut down the noise that spreads to neighborhoods around the area during the concerts.
“This has been a fairly controversial zoning case,” Petersen acknowledged. Three property owners had filed petitions with the city in opposition to the change, so a two-thirds vote would be required to pass the ordinance, he said.
“I do want to see a young man succeed in his endeavor and I don’t think it is ever good to have a vacant building,” Councilman Louis Magdits said, but he continued by saying, “I’m concerned about noise.”
Page 2 of 3 - Magdits also said he was concerned “this thing could morph” into nothing but a bar, and for that neighborhood, “I don’t think this is a good fit.”
Bahr said people living on the neighboring streets are working diligently to make their homes look nice and to make the neighborhoods pleasant, but on Friday and Saturday nights, their peace is disturbed by noise from the music and from people leaving the Fat Cats establishment after an evening of partying.
“This is a bad, bad deal from the git-go,” Bahr said. “If I had a child 13,14, 15, I wouldn’t let them go (to Fat Cats). I’m going to vote against it.”
Councilman Steven Leonard asked if there was anything the council could do to make those councilmen who were balking at passage of the ordinance change their minds.
“I’d hate to put a young entrepreneur out,” he said, noting that Fat Cats is an authentic start-up business, that has had some “pivots” in its business plan, but such changes are to be expected.
“What has to be done here to fix this problem?” he asked. No real answer was offered, but Councilman Don Morris said, “If this ordinance doesn’t pass, he could still operate with the FERC (ordinance).”
Councilwoman Fran Mazanec asked what would happen if the council approved the CUP ordinance, including the conditions, but Barrack Trust and Fat Cats did not comply. "What is our recourse?” she asked.
City Administrator John Butz said the business license could be rescinded.
Councilman Magdits said he preferred adopting the FERC zoning ordinance rather than enacting the CUP ordinance.
Councilman Jimmy Dale Williams asked if the CUP could be set aside to give the council time to approve the FERC and then let the owners reapply.
City Counselor Lance Thurman said that tabling the CUP ordinance would be appropriate so the council could decide whether or not to adopt the FERC zoning ordinance, and then return to the CUP.
That was done.
“I think this is a better fit,” Councilman Magdits said, and the FERC would eliminate a chance of “morphing” into solely a bar. He added, though, that the FERC does not do enough about noise prevention.
The Planning and Zoning Commission recommended the FERC ordinance on a 4-4 vote with the tie broken by commission chairman Paul Stigall.
Petersen said a FERC might operate in a C-3 zone “by right” and in a C-2 zone as a conditional use.
A FERC must have a FERC business license and an alcohol sales license if alcohol is sold and/or consumed on the site. If alcohol is part of the business, sales cannot exceed 50 percent of the business’s gross income from all of the diverse recreational and entertainment venues on the property.
Page 3 of 3 - The application for a FERC license must be accompanied by $200, but the council waived that fee if the application is made within two weeks. Annual license renewal fee will be $100.
There was more discussion about noise, and the consensus was that noise regulation will be discussed further when the owners apply for a conditional use on the C-2 zoned property.
The council unanimously approved the final reading of the FERC ordinance.
Resuming discussion of the CUP ordinance, they voted it down 11-1, with Councilman Leonard casting the only aye vote.
By motion, the council voted unanimously to give the owners of the property and the business on Highway 72 the chance to apply for a FERC license with a conditional use.
It will take up to 60 days to go through the procedure with the Planning and Zoning Commission and the public hearings, and Fat Cats was granted the right to continue operating as it has during that time, even without a FERC license.