We believe a couple of business stories deserve some comment.
First, the city council/planning commission recently approved a rezoning on Highway 53 at a busy intersection (where Wendy’s and Bojangles sit). Note, they did not approve a restaurant there, as even the most activist liberal does not want government to have the ability to decide on a specific business. What they approved was a zoning that could allow a restaurant or another business or whatever the owner wants to build as long as it’s legal and meets the zoning codes. It was openly discussed that another fast food place is looking at the spot, but technically the owner did not have to reveal what business would locate there -- just as long as it meets the zoning requested.
Based on several online comments, there is a mistaken and dangerous belief that government has the right and ability to pick what comes to town -- as though Jasper’s mayor has a stack of applications and he chose a fast food restaurant over a high-tech start-up.
In this case, we would encourage our city to look at an already busy intersection and see how it can be improved and if the new business may need to adapt to prevent traffic chaos.
Government does have the duty of setting land use standards. But it is solely up to entrepreneurs on what actually develops.
Second, we recently ran a story that there is actually not a restaurant committed to the prominent building on the corner of Main and Church streets downtown. We didn’t set out to report a non-event. We set out to confirm public statements during a meeting that a big-time Atlanta restaurant was about to open shop. Turns out they aren’t ready to commit, though they are looking at it. Our intention wasn’t to embarrass those that ran with the comments as though they were fact. One Facebook group went so far as to post what they said would be the restaurant’s name and give an opening timeline. We simply felt a duty to correct the misinformation.
This is the second time this year we reported a business was not coming. We also publicly noted that Publix has not applied for any permits, has not met with any officials concerning infrastructure, nor shown any official sign they are eying a local spot. Maybe they too will open here one day, but circulating reports at that time were pure speculation.
After the debacle of the great water park hype (of which we were guilty ourselves of not showing more skepticism), we aren’t going to rush to print statements about a business opening without solid confirmation – something official as in plans or permits.
Fancy drawings and Facebook posts are titillating, but permits, infrastructure plans and construction work is the real deal.
Third, looking ahead, the Jasper mayor told us he is planning to broach a needed, but potentially thorny, subject. Officially, the city has an ordinance keeping beer, wine and liquor sellers and churches a certain distance from each other. The ordinance is no longer practical. According to a recent conversation with the mayor, the city council will be asked to revise it.
If someone were rigidly enforcing the code, there are two churches/ministries in downtown Jasper now. The religious folks have not asked for any enforcement but their presence could be a challenge should a new restaurant want to come.
The mayor said he was aware of one other situation where someone has rented part of an office to a church that sits near an existing restaurant selling beer. Yet another situation we are aware of is a forthcoming church next to a store that has sold beer for decades.
The mayor explained that when the code was written, churches meant brick buildings with steeples and it made more sense. Now new churches form and meet in all sorts of places and don’t appear perturbed by nearby restaurants that have beer and wine.
If no one is asking for the enforcement it seems best to loosen it up. The existing code could create an enforcement challenge with some churches and alcohol sellers already good neighbors -- with good fences presumably.