JASPER — The City of Jasper now has a riverfront district.
The Jasper Common Council approved an ordinance to establish a riverfront district at its meeting Wednesday. Establishing the district works in conjunction with Boxer Girl LLC’s redevelopment of the Jasper Cabinet property behind the Jasper Train Depot into River Centre.
River Centre LLC, the entity managing the project, requested a riverfront district because it makes retail spaces along the river more attractive because liquor licenses can be obtained outside normal quota restrictions.
Councilwoman Nancy Eckerle had several concerns with establishing the district, such as the effect new businesses with liquor licenses would have on existing establishments. To her, it seemed unfair to allow businesses within a Riverfront District to obtain liquor licenses outside of quota restrictions when other area businesses had to comply.
City Attorney Renee Kabrick pointed out that the district does not necessarily make it easier for businesses to obtain liquor licenses. Licenses obtained in the district, for example, would only be good for one year and would only work at the establishment.
The licenses could not travel with vendors to an outdoor event, for example.
Mayor Terry Seitz pointed out that the measure would make the district, and River Centre, more attractive to businesses, something called for in the city’s 2010 Downtown Masterplan and the 2013 Riverfront Masteplan.
If established, the district could extend 1,500 feet from the river, which would encompass some residential areas.
Eckerle shared concerns that the district would allow residences to be converted into establishments with liquor licenses, such as bed and breakfasts. Kabrick said it wouldn’t work like that because of other zoning laws. Seitz pointed out that there is already a zoning variance process in place that allows property owners to set up businesses in residential areas if they desire.
Eckerle also voiced concerns about bar-type establishments on the first floor of River Centre causing problems for the residents on the second and third floors, as River Centre will be a mixed-use building that includes apartments.
Developer Jane Hendrickson of Boxer Girl said as the property owner, River Center LLC would have means to handle such situations.
“Everybody has to live in harmony or somebody has to go,” Hendrickson said.
Hendrickson said she has six businesses interested in renting space in River Centre as part of the riverfront district, some of which are local businesses interested in opening a second location. In reality, she said, she’ll end up with three or four restaurants because of a non-compete clause in the leasing contracts.
“You have to remember I couldn’t possibly have six restaurants there because of exclusivity,” she said.
Seitz assured the council that past discussions about a riverfront district have considered several possible effects.
“I think I’ve thrown every dart I can think of at this,” Seitz said.
The documents up for approval Wednesday included a map of the district, which stretched almost to the Courthouse Square.
Kabrick said she tried several possible maps within the 1,500-foot limit.
Councilman John Bell questioned why The Astra Theatre was not included inside the district.
“Believe me, we tried,” Kabrick said.
After much discussion Wednesday, Eckerle made a motion to table a vote on the ordinance pending edits to the district map and the development of guidelines for granting the liquor licenses. Her motion died on the table.
Ultimately, the council approved the ordinance, but asked Kabrick to edit the map and make the council the entity that would grant the licenses rather than the redevelopment commission. The council also asked Kabrick to write some guidelines for granting the licenses. The guidelines will be up for discussion at the April meeting, 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 19 in Jasper City Hall, 610 Main Street.