City approves rezoning for microbrewery

JAMES BEATY | Staff photo

Deloures Smith, left, stands by as Rowena McElroy addresses the McAlester City Council on Tuesday night in regard to a new microbrewery planned in the city.

Plans for a new microbrewery in McAlester passed another hurdle when city councilors voted to approve a rezoning measure — but it may have failed if a councilor had been successful in her later attempt to recast her vote.

With passage of the rezoning request filed on behalf of Pietro’s First Post, LLC, plans call for the microbrewery to be constructed on the northwest corner of Tenth Street and Washington Avenue.

The measure approving the rezoning passed by a 4-to-1 vote of city councilors who were present at the Tuesday night meeting at City Hall. A majority of councilors voted “yes” to approve the recommendation by city of McAlester Community Development Director Jayme Clifton to rezone the property from a C-2 Neighborhood Convenience District to a C-4 Restricted Commercial District.

Prior to the vote, Deloures Smith and Rowena McElroy addressed city councilors about their concerns regarding the planned location for the microbrewery.

Smith said she operates the Grand Avenue Community Center, on the south side of Washington Avenue and directly across the street from the planned new brewery. McElroy said she operates a child care center in McAlester and she is concerned about what will happen to the Grand Avenue Community Center if a microbrewery opens across the street from it.

They said the Grand Avenue Community Center provides free breakfasts, lunches and snacks to children — and they said they had concerns about possible drunk drivers if a microbrewery with a bar for onsite sales opens across the street.

Both said they were not opposed to the business — but asked if opening it could be delayed until a new building can be found to house the Grand Avenue Community Center

In response to the drunk driver concern, those supporting the ordinance to rezone the property said the intent is to make the microbrewery a family-friendly place, with a separation between the bar and other facilities at the site.

During the meeting, Smith and McElroy asked for help from the microbrewery operators as well as the city of McAlester in finding a new building in which to house the Grand Community Center.

Attorney Mark Fields came to the podium to answer questions regarding the microbrewery. He identified himself as an attorney representing the planned microbrewery as well as one of the owners.

Fields said he would be willing to talk to anyone — but he felt like rezoning the site and finding a new building for the Grand Avenue Community Center were two different matters.

Voting in favor of the rezoning were McAlester Mayor John Browne, Ward 3 Councilor Travis Read, Ward 4 Councilor James Brown and Ward 5 Councilor Maureen Harrison. Ward 1 Councilor Weldon Smith and Ward 2 Councilor Cully Stevens were not present at the meeting, leaving the remaining 4 councilors and Mayor Browne to decide the rezoning issue.

Ward 6 Councilor Zach Prichard passed the sole vote against the measure. Afterwards, Prichard said he voted “no” because he did not think the rezoning was necessary for the brewery to operate at the site.

Although Ward 5 Councilor Harrison voted to approve the rezoning measure, she asked later in the meeting if she could go back and change her vote.

City Attorney Bill Ervin said it would be possible, but would require a series of motions and affirmative votes by the city council to bring the matter back before the council for a revote. Harrison made a motion to bring the rezoning question back up for another vote — but her motion died on the table when none of the other councilors seconded her motion.

Mayor Browne, who could have seconded the motion himself if he wanted, asked at least three times if any of the other councilors wanted to second the motion.

Silence.

When Harrison’s attempt to recast her vote failed, the 4-to-1 vote measure to approve the rezoning remained in place.

It takes a majority of the entire seven-member council, which includes the mayor, for the city’s legislative body to pass a measure — regardless of whether they are all in attendance to cast their votes at the time.

In other words, it takes at least four votes of the council to pass an ordinance, rezoning request or any other matter, regardless of how many councilors are in attendance at any given meeting.

If Harrison had been successful in changing her vote — and if all the other councilors had voted the same way the second time around — the rezoning ordinance would have failed, with three members of the council voting in favor of the measure, and Harrison and Prichard opposing it. Although three councilors would have been in favor of the measure with the other two against it, the measure would have failed to reach the four-vote “yes” threshold needed for passage.

Asked about the matter Wednesday, Mayor Browne said that if Harrison had got a second on her bid to open the rezoning measure up for a second vote, he was prepared to offer an amendment to delay the vote until the next regular council meeting — when he hoped all seven members of the city council would be present to vote on the matter.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com

Contact James Beaty by email at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.

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