By Sue Botos
A number of planning and zoning issues have been simmering in City Council over the past few months, including internet cafes, electronic signs and the possibility of a tattoo parlor opening up in the city. Now, the regulation of 24-hour businesses located near residential areas has been added to the stew.
Cornwall Road resident Heath Demaree came before City Council with concerns over the Sun Mart convenience store, 20045 Lake Road. The store replaced a Shell gas station and offers groceries and other products, but does not sell gas.
Demaree told council that he and his neighbors were concerned over the round-the-clock operation of the store, which began about a month ago upon completion of the Lake Road project. The business opened on July 22. Aside from light and noise issues, plus the close proximity to Kensington Intermediate School, Demaree said that residents were concerned about the precedent they felt was being set.
“We want to maintain our quality of life,” commented Demaree, stating that should a store move from the Lake Road area, a business open 24 hours a day may invite the wrong type of shop to occupy the vacated space. “It’s not hard to envision something turning over and becoming a problem,” he added.
Mayor Pam Bobst said that she has spoken to the owner of the Sun Mart, and reported that he is willing to do what he can to be a good neighbor, including dimming lights at night and monitoring noise. “Whenever a commercial property abuts residences, there are issues,” she stated.
While the residents do not have a problem with the market selling beer and wine, Demaree said the location near the school worried his neighbors. Bobst pointed out that Danny Boy’s and Grady’s, located across the street, have served alcoholic beverages for years, and that beer and wine are available at the Lake Road Market. She also reminded council and the audience that Giant Eagle and Walgreens are open 24/7, although located on Center Ridge Road in an area zoned general as opposed to local business.
Demaree said that plans for a meeting of residents throughout the area, not just those near the Sun Mart, are in the works. “This goes across all wards. This is precedent-setting,” he stated. He predicted about 30 to 40 individuals would attend the gathering.
Sun Mart manager Jim Herak, when reached for comment, said that no resident has approached him with these concerns, and that he was unaware of plans for a meeting concerning his store. “Ninety-nine percent of the people who come in here are positive and have welcomed us,” recalled Herak. He added that an early-morning fisherman requested the store carry live bait. Because it is unavailable in the city at 4 or 4:30 a.m., Herak said, he is considering the suggestion.
While Herak said that Sun Mart sells only beer and wine, not liquor, and restricts the hours of its sale. Wine is not available on Sunday, and no alcohol is sold during the overnight hours.
Council will be considering regulations in place in other communities regarding 24/7 businesses prior to the proposed meeting of residents. Law Director Andy Bemer also reported that he is in the process of studying other communities’ ordinances regarding tattoo establishments. “The actual activity is First Amendment-protected,” said Bemer, adding that municipalities do have the right to regulate such businesses. In the meantime, he said, the city will draft a moratorium on tattoo shops.
“We’re not trying to be a thorn in anyone’s side,” remarked Herak, who said he has only heard some vague grumbling, and no actual complaints, regarding the operation.