Fairmont reviews zoning issues

First Posted: 1/15/2009

FAIRMONT -- What began as a meeting to get residents' input on how to regulate mixed-drink sales quickly turned into a crash course in zoning Tuesday.
About 10 people attended the special meeting, but most just listened as Fairmont Planning and Zoning Director Katrina Tatum explained how the town would have to update its zoning ordinances before it can begin to control where business that can sell mixed drinks locate.
Fairmont voters approved the sale of mixed drinks in a November referendum.
Town officials want to use zoning to restrict businesses that might sell mixed drinks to appropriate areas. But Tatum said that Fairmont's zoning ordinances need to be uniform first.
“If we don't begin looking at zoning and make a change to the appropriate use, it will damage your ability to bring in uniform business use,” Tatum said.
Commissioner John Jackson said there are residential areas in Fairmont that are zoned to allow neighborhood businesses and business areas that are zoned to allow for residential use. Jackson, a former town planning director, said that, in many instances, the properties are no longer there but the zoning was never changed. Walnut Street alone is zoned to allow for five uses.
“It's a hodge-podge mess out there,” Jackson said.
The Board of Commissioners asked Tatum to provide the board with a list of zoning recommendations to review at Tuesday's board meeting.
“I feel like we're cleaning up what should have been done years ago,” said Commissioner Mary Bruce Grantham. “But we have to do it.”
Andy Grimsley, who asked the town to consider a mixed-drink sales referendum last year, said he is willing to wait on the town to straighten out “the mess.” Grimsley is considering opening a restaurant that serves mixed drinks.
“I don't see a whole lot of people rushing out to get a permit,” he said. “The state doesn't just hand these things out. You have to qualify. If you don't meet all the state requirements, you won't get a permit anyway. We all want this done right.”

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