Sunday, July 31, 2011

Lewis Park Sold

This didn't attract much attention when it happened but Lewis Park was sold last January to CH 18, a Delaware Limited Liability Corporation operating out of New York City. 269 units sold for $9.6 million.

More on Signs

Along with the sandwich board sign ordinances, which may be taken up by city council later this fall, Carbondale does have some specific standards in place regarding sign upkeep:
A. The construction and maintenance performance standards for signs contained in the international building code as adopted as part of section 4-1-1 of this code shall be the performancestandards for the construction and continual maintenance of signs regulated by this article unless otherwise specified in this article. (Ord. 88-81; amd. Ord. 2003-72)
B. All components of a sign shall be kept clean, in good repair and free from all electrical and mechanical hazards, including, but not limited to, faulty wiring, loose connections, missing or broken panels, etc.
 C. Signs and their support structure(s) shall be painted when necessary to prevent corrosion or to replace peeling or flaking paint.
 D. Any sign in violation of the construction and maintenance performance standards shall be repaired or removed within thirty (30) days after written notice from the administrative official. The notice to repair or remove the sign shall be served on the owner, agent or person having the beneficial use of the property upon which the sign is found.
 E. Any person who violates, disobeys, omits, neglects or refuses to comply with the order of the administrative official to repair or remove the sign shall be in violation of this section. In addition to the penalties provided for in section 15-2J-5 of this chapter, the administrative official is hereby authorized to make application to the courts for an injunction requiring compliance with this code ordering the repair or removal of the sign. (Ord. 88-81)

Based my reading of the above, it appears that the signs below are in violation of the ordinance. Thanks to a blog reader for sending these along.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Sandwich Signs

The sandwich board signs that stood on the sidewalk advertising Esther's Clothing and La Unica Bakery have vanished.  I checked with City Planner Chris Wallace and found that the problem is they are both located on Highway 13, which is controlled by the Illinois Department of Transportation, as is Highway 51.  Ergo, any business located along Main or Walnut Streets heading east and west or the north and south bound University and Illinois, that does not have a setback from the sidewalk, must get an easement from IDOT or remove the sign.  The city can grant easements on side streets, which is why the Newell House finally managed to keep its sidewalk sign out, at least according to Wallace, by moving its sign around the corner onto Washington and getting an easement from the city.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Post Office

When the US Post Office announced it planned to consider shuttering some 3700 locations over the next year, I figured the location on the west side of Carbondale certainly made the list.  Not this time though.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

New Restaurant in Vergennes

The Longhorn Country Store and Cafe opened a few weeks ago about 7 miles north of Murphysboro on Hwy 127.  It's in the building that housed The Country Store convenience store which closed a few years ago.

Friday, July 22, 2011

C2 Liquor Licences

By my count we currently have 10 businesses in town that qualify for the new C2 liquor licenses:  Schnucks, Wal-Mart, Neighborhood Food Co-Op, Town Square Market, International Foods, Dona Camilla, the other grocery beside P-Mac Music (name escapes me), Save A Lot, Aldi's and Kroger.  I did not think Kroger would qualify but was informed that is is 264 feet from the closest entrance to the nearest gas pump, exceeding the 250 foot limit imposed by the ordinance.  Walgreen's, bakeries and convenience stores are excluded since, by the definition of the ordinance, they are not grocery stores (i.e. do not carry a full line of groceries).

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Gill Announced Retirement

City Manager Allen Gill announced his retirement today after being on the job only aboutr 3 years:

City Manager Allen Gill announced today that he intends to retire from his position at the end of this calendar year. In a statement to the Mayor and council, he stated that this decision is based solely on personal and family concerns. Gill will reach the age of 65 in December and states that he will be able to pursue other part time professional opportunities.

Gill has been Carbondale City Manager since July 2008. He has been a city manager or administrator for 32 years, serving 6 cities in Missouri, Kansas and Illinois. He has also served as an elected city council member. Prior to entering the city management profession, Gill served as a social worker and municipal management analyst for 10 years.


I don't know how the vote on the liquor ordinance went last night, but made a mistake in yesterday's post in that Lance Jack, due to his holding a liquor license, could not particpate in any of the discussion or vote on any ordinances or issues having to do with liquor.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Liquor Ordinance

Tonight's city council meeting has the revision to the city's liquor ordinance on the agenda.  As proposed, it would allow grocery stores to get a class C2 license, allowing them to sell beer and wine only and not if they have a gas station within 200 feet.  Councilmen Chris Wissmann's comments about the proposed ordinance can be found here and Don Monty's are here.  Councilwoman Jane Adams had this to say  about the ordinance:

We have a lengthy agenda at our meeting Tuesday, but the most important item is an amendment to the City’s liquor ordinance. I think that we have tried your patience with our deliberations, but I hope this is the end or at least the beginning of the end.

We will be considering an amendment that allows the sale of beer and wine in grocery stores. At their July 7 meeting, after addressing comments and questions from the audience, the Liquor Advisory Board voted to recommend the more restrictive and limited sales of beer, wine, and spirits of the two proposals put before them (see my last blog, July 6).

I’ve talked with a lot of people about the issue and have found that most people I’ve spoken with first say they want beer and wine in grocery stores. But as we talk many of them say they would like to be able to buy spirits as well as beer and wine in grocery stores, and they’d like to be able to buy alcoholic beverages in gas station convenience stores, as well.

The amendments before us also require liquor sales in grocery stores to end at 11:00 p.m., rather than 1:59, which is closing time for all other establishments that sell liquor. And it has a lower fee for grocery store licenses than for regular package liquor licenses.

I'm not a big fan of the "grocery store" ordinance as the restriction regarding closeness to gas stations is nonsensical since we have at least three drive up liquor windows in town,  creating another class of licenses adds unneeded bureaucracy,  and not including gas stations just means we will have to reopen the whole thing in another year or so.  I would also like to see the ordinance take effect 6 months to a year after passage to allow currently existing stores time to adjust their product mix.  We currently have 8 liquor stores in town.  Based on the number of liquor only stores in surrounding communities that allow liquor sold in grocery and convenience stores ( only 1 in Murphysboro, 3 in Marion), I'd bet we see 4 of the current stores close up within 5 years after the ordinance is passed. 

Can't be there tonight, but based on their past actions, I expect Mayor Frizler and councilmen Monty and Fronbarger to vote in favor of some form of a revised ordinance and Wissmann to strongly oppose it.  Councilwoman McDaniels has shown little opposition to granting new liquor licenses in the past, so I'd expect her to vote in favor.  Lance Jack and Jane Adams, I'm not certain about.  Both on on record as supporting local businesses as the heart of the community, but given Jack's struggles to get his own liquor license, I don't think he could oppose some other business applying for one. Adams doesn't have  a track record yet, save for voting in favor of liquor licenses for the Icebox and Elite Lounge, though her comments above lead me to think she leans towards a "yes" vote as well.  Ergo, if the vote tonight goes the way I think it will, and the proposal doesn't get tabled for more work, the council votes 6 to 1 in favor with Chris Wissmann the lone opponent.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Cooling Center Open

Talking with a couple of city employees, I found that, in all the years the city has opened a cooling center in response to extreme heat, they could not remember a single person ever taking advantage of it:

In response to the Excessive Heat Advisory, the City of Carbondale is providing a Cooling Center from Monday through Friday. The Cooling Center is located in Room 112 of the Carbondale Civic Center, with the following hours: Monday through Thursday 8:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.; Friday 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

During the Excessive Heat Advisory, citizens are encouraged to stay hydrated and indoors in the air conditioning as much as is practicable.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

City Council Meeting

This Tuesday at 7 p.m. Some notable things on the agenda
A proposal to transfer part of West Jackson Street to Memorial Hospital.  The Hosipal already owns the property on both sides of the street, this would make the Hospital responsible for maintance of the street as well.

Granting an easement allowing PKs to build a beer garden on the south side of the building.  This would be good for both PKs and the city, as well as Art Framing, since it would move the smokers off the front sidewalk to the side of the building.

Ordinance amending Title 2 allowing grocery stores to sell beer and wine but not hard liquor.  This is essentially the "grocery store" ordincance approved by the Liquor Advisory Board.

Ordinance changing the wording of  Section 2-2-1 specifying that a holder of a Class A liquor license may servce on city council but is not required to serve on the Liquor Control Commission.

Ordinance vacating an alley between East Fisher and East Larch, returning the alleyway to the adjacent property owners.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Hospice of Southern Illinois Month

While certainly a worthy organization, well deserving of recognition, if you are going to proclaim a month "_____  Month",  wouldn't it be a better idea to make the proclamation t the start of the month?

On July 14, 2011, at 4:45 p.m. Mayor Joel Fritzler will issue a proclamation to Hospice of Southern Illinois to recognize their 30th anniversary year in the community and proclaim July 2011 as Hospice of Southern Illinois Month. Through the commitment to quality and compassionate care of all caregivers associated with Hospice of Southern Illinois, patients are provided the opportunity to live fully up until the final moments in their homes, surrounded and supported by loved ones and friends.
Through this proclamation, Mayor Fritzler is encouraging all citizens to increase their understanding and awareness of options of care at the end of life, and to observe this occasion by supporting appropriate activities and programs.

Labor Film Series

In case you have free time, Sunday afternoon movie viewing (from an emailed press release): 

The SIUC Labor Coalition, representing all four IEA locals on campus,
is very pleased to announce a film series entitled "Viewing Issues of
Labor and Capital." The series will feature three film screenings and
follow-up discussions (along with refreshments!) on three Sunday
afternoons over the next three months: July 17, August 14, and
September 18. All screenings will be held at the Varsity Center for
the Arts at 2 pm. The films to be screened are:

July 17: Bread and Roses: based upon the fight by industrial workers
(SEIU) in Los Angeles for better working conditions and the right to
August 14: Inside Job: an award-winning documentary on the inner
workings of the economic meltdown of 2008
Sept 18: Struggles in Steel: African American steel workers speak
about their struggle for fair treatment in the steel industry

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Chris Wissmann on Liquor Ordinance Changes

Emailed Councilman Wissmann for his take on the proposed changes to the liquor ordinance changes,  With his permission, below is his response:

I would understand the arguments about consumer choice if alcohol was not already dirt cheap and easily available in Carbondale. Liquor isn't tube socks- someone who buys a case of cheap imported footware isn't as a result going to drive well over the speed limit, jump a median, and kill passengers in an oncoming car. There is no need to further erode the economic barriers to overconsumption in Carbondale, low as they already are. And should the price of liquor decline through the competition brought by an expansion of licenses, unless the volume of liquor sales also increases (which would require a substantial and unlikely increase in local of-age population and buying power), then the city will actually see a decrease in tax revenues from liquor sales- the city derives more from a $7.99 six-pack than it does off a $3 six-pack.

Those who think that seven local families who own eight liquor stores constitute a monopoly need to think about what to call a situation when three or four massive corporations, with pockets deep enough to bankrupt small competitors through unfair trade practices like dumping, take over the local retail-liquor industry. That certainly does not constitute an expansion of customer choice.

There's many few technical parts of the proposals that bother me. Here are a few:

*       If under either proposal we must suspend or revoke a grocery license, must that licensee completely shut down operations, or can it continue to sell groceries and merchandise other than liquor? If the latter, then we're creating an incredibly unfair system- liquor stores can completely go out of business if they're forced to close for even a few weeks, but groceries lose just a small portion of their business. (That, and the issues raised by underage patrons, is the point of the separate entrance requirement.)

*       Walmart, Schnuck's, and Kroger can all afford to pay the same license fee as local licensees. So can Walgreen's and CVS if somehow they qualify as groceries under the proposed ordinances. There's absolutely no reason to give them discounts on license fees. None.

*       Why under these proposals can grocery stores continue to operate twenty-four/seven if they shut off liquor sales at an appointed hour, while restaurants, bars, and liquor stores cannot? Either everyone shuts down at the close of liquor sales, or everyone can operate as long as they stop liquor sales by the appointed hour.

It's also worth noting that thus far this issue has generated only ten constituent emails, maximum, during the last month. During the five days between the announcement of the Saluki Way proposal and the council's vote, I received about sixty emails, phone calls, and even a couple of snail-mail letters. When former mayor Brad Cole mentioned the possibility of selling the city's public-works department, I received more than one-hundred citizen contacts during the following two weeks. During the last six months or so that expansion of the Class C licenses has allegedly been an issue- fanned mostly by a shallow news media- I've literally received more emails about backyard chickens (mostly in favor, by the way). Supposedly seven-thousand people signed petitions to get liquor into grocery stores, but a lot fewer people than that voted in the municipal election last April, so I don't see real grassroots support for it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Goodwill Moving

A blog reader informs me that Goodwill is moving out of their current location at 701 East Main, to the old Rex Electronics location further east on Main. Expect the moved to be completed by September.

Park Board Meeting Site

Received an email from a reader of the blog clarifying why the Park Board has it's meetings at the Civic Center instead of Hickory Lodge.  Actually, it is to make the meetings more accessible to the public.  The Civic Center has broadcast capability and can transmit Park Board meetings over public access, much as City Council meetings are.  Plus, the conference rooms at Hickory Lodge are quite small, making them uncomfortable for the board and an audience.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Convention and Tourism Bureau Move

Looks as if the Convention and Tourism Bureau has completed its move to the old Power Players building on South Illinois, just north of Kaya.  No signage out yet, though, so assume they are not officially open for business.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Park District Meeting

No indication on the agenda regarding topics under consideration but I find it interesting that the meeting takes place at the Civic Center rather than at Park District headquarters, Hickory Lodge.  I'd bet the meeting isn't well attended, despite the fact that it is one of the many entities that gets a share of our property taxes.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Some Thoughts on Liquor Ordinances

A few more thoughts on the proposed ordinances presented at last night's Liquor Advisory Board meeting.

The current ordinance needs changing.  One figure I heard bandied about last night was 6000 signatures on petitions asking for the change. That's about 25% of Carbondale's population and, while I doubt that all those who signed live in the 'dale, they do shop here rather than Marion or Murphysboro.

Simply expanding the ordinance to the entire city, as both the comprehensive and grocery store ordinances propose, needs to be looked at carefully. As Don Monty pointed out in his email, different areas of Carbondale are zoned "wet" and "dry". If you remember when Short Liquors wanted to open Blue Fish Liquor and Cigars off Reed Station Road last year, the council had to change that area from "dry" to "wet" before a liquor establishment could open there.  How will an ordinance allowing citywide sales of liquor interact with the liquor zoning regulations currently in place?

The ordinance needs to phase in over time, three to six months after passage, rather than immediately.   This will give the current license holders time to adjust to the changed environment. Any of the new license holders will focus on beer and wine sales as those are the fastest moving items and account for most liquor sales in Carbondale.  One of the current liquor license holders commented last night that over 50% of their sales come from beer.  If the "grocery store" ordinance is adopted, those new license holders would only sell beer and wine putting even more pressure on the currently existing license holders.

Having a distance restriction between the sale of liquor and the sale of gas doesn't make much sense.  If the objective is to prevent people from buying liquor and then driving, why do both Westroads Liquor and ABC Liquor have drive up windows?  You can't get alcohol and gas much closer than than, unless you have a drive through liquor store, such as I've seen in Ohio.

The LAB specifically said that,as the interpreted it, the grocery store ordinance would only allow grocery stores (which they seemed to have a problem defining) to sell liquor, not convenience stores.  If you are going to change the ordinance, change it so that it applies to everyone.  A partial change leaves the city iin the same state it is now, only with grocery stores added to the mix of those who can have licenses. Work out the details now, rather than coming back in a year to hash it out again.

LAB chair Robinson appeared really worried that expanding the licenses to more businesses would encourage everyone and her brother to apply for a license, raising the specter of florists and bike shops with liquor licenses along side balloons and bike racks.  Won't happen. Just look at Murphysboro and Marion.  If liquor is a fit for the business, expect to see an application.  If it's not part of the business' core competency, the business won't apply.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Liquor Advisory Board Meeting

Sat in on most of tonight's LAB meeting.  Saw councilpeople Lee Fronabarger and Jane Adams, as well as Mayor Joel Fritzler, sitting in the back row, along with contingents from both liquor and grocery stores, as well as one from Huck's.  After quickly voting to retain chair Mark Robinson and vice-chair John Benshoff for another year, the Board moved onto the issue which had attracted most people, a discussion of proposed changes in the ordinance governing who can have a liquor license.

The current ordinance caps class C liquor licenses at 8, does not allow sales south of Pleasant Hill Road, does not allow liquor sales within 250' of gas sales locations, requires a separate entrance and wall for grocery and drug stores, restricts hours of entry and admission to the same as bars, must be 18 years old to work there and 50% of employees must be TIP trained and stores must pay an annual license fee of $2250.

Two competing ordinances were discussed.  The "comprehensive ordinance" proposed by Mayor Fritzler would eliminate the license caps as well as the gas, entrance and wall restrictions and allow sales city wide.  Age limits would remain the same as under the current ordinance though some age limits would differ for class B licenses.  TIP training and license fees would remain as they are now.

The "grocery store ordinance" proposed by Don Monty, would create a new C-2 license only available to grocery stores.  It would also allow sales city wide as well as eliminate the caps as well as the requirement to have a separate entrance and wall.  In addition, it would reduce the gas sales restriction to 200' and only allow the sale of beer (no kegs) and wine.  Liquor sales would end at 111 p.m. (no indication when they would start for 24 hour stores).  There are no restrictions on ages that can enter the store and employees under age 18 can't stock liquor on the shelves.  Only 50% of those who deal with liquor would have to get TIPs training (employees who don't deal with it would not have to get the training, no would they be counted in figuring the percentage) and a C-2 license would only cost $1125, the rationale for this being that the C-2 license holders forgo the opportunity to sell hard liquor so should not have to pay as much for their license.

Francis Murphy from the Neighborhood Food  Co-op spoke in favor of adopting one of the revised ordinances, as did representatives from Kroger, Wal-Mart and Hucks, though the LAB made a point of noting that the proposed ordinances, as written, would only apply to grocery stores, not to convenience stores.  The Kroger representative indicated that they were OK with either proposed ordinance, save for the 11 p.m. restriction in the grocery store ordinance.  There was also a question brought up regarding the city's definition of a grocery store, which a couple of LAB members thought needed "tightened".

The currently licensed liquor stores were, as expected, not in favor of either proposed ordinance. Local resident Pat Kelly argued that, if caps on liquor licenses were removed, the city should, in fairness, look at removing other restrictions on business it has imposed.  Other concerns raised were the increase in density of places to buy liquor and the half price liquor license offered to large stores like Wal-Mart and Kroger.

Some proponents of changes in the ordinance, including Trace Brown, who is building the new Shell convenience store at the intersection of Hwy 13 and Reed Station Road, thought the meeting started at 7 p.m. and came in about 6:45 as the meeting wound down.  Brown spoke in favor of the change, though he made a rather nonsensical argument that if convenience stores could not sell beer and wine, then liquor stores should not be able to sell convenience products such as chips and cigarettes.

The board then chose to vote on the grocery store ordinance.  During the vote, board chairman Mark Robinson,emphasized several times that the vote was advisory, not binding on any future decision by the City Council and that, as written, would not include convenience stores.  After a request to City Manager Allen Gill to further examine the city's definition of a grocery store, the board voted 5 to 1 to approve and send on the grocery store ordinance to the liquor control commission and city council.  I had to leave at that point so am not sure if they voted on the comprehensive ordinance as well, though from the conversation as I was leaving, I doubt it.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Recycling Workshop

In case you want to know about the recycling services offered by the city, it will host a Recycling Workshop next Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in room 118 of the Civic Center.  I'd like to find out why we don't have recycling set up in the Civic Center yet.  Take a look around the next time you are in there, no bins or collection receptacles at all.

The City of Carbondale will host a Recycling Program Workshop for all interested residents. The Workshop will focus on curbside, drop-off, landscape and special waste recycling.  Information about the City’s refuse collection services will also be available.

The Workshop is free and open to the public. The event will be held in the Carbondale Civic Center located at 200 South Illinois Avenue in Room 118 on July 12, 2011 at 6:30 pm. New residents and those with questions about the City’s recycling and refuse collection services are encouraged to attend.

For more information residents may call the City of Carbondale Maintenance and Environmental Services Division at 457-3275.  Information about refuse and recycling services can also be found online at and on the City of Carbondale Web site

LAB Meeting

For those of you interested in proposed changes in Carbondale's liquor ordinances, the Liquor Advisory Board meets tomorrow night at 5:30 p.m. in room 108 of the Civic Center.  Only think on the agenda is a discussion of proposed changes to the liquor code:

1.               Roll Call

2.         Election of Officers

3.         Consideration of Revisions to Liquor Code

4.         Scheduling of next meeting

5.         Adjournment

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Friday Night Fair Grant

The state has announced a Youth Recreation Corps grant to Carbondale Main Street for the Friday Night Fair. The grand will fund two positions in the CMS office for staffers between the ages of 16 and 19. tasked with developing children's activities and new programs designed to enhance the children's recreation aspect of the events.  The positions will last for 60 days and Carbondale Main Street will accept applications at its office, expecting to fill the positions by July 15.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Don Monty on Liquor Ordinance

After the aborted attempt to pass an ordinance liberalizing Carbondale's restrictions on liquor sales, I emailed Councilman Monty asking for his reasoning on not seconding the motion. Below, with his permission, is his response:

At the Council meeting, I gave an explanation of my reasons for not supporting the ordinance that was presented. Some of the reasons were technical, but others were substantive. One place I disagree with the Mayor and City Manager is the provision to move the south border of the area where liquor may be sold to the south City limits. I have no problem with removing the prohibition on the sale of alcohol south of Pleasant Hill Road. But a thorough review of the history of the provision in the City Code tells me that instead of amending the provision to move the south boundary, the entire provision should be removed from the City Code. Some people want to interpret the existing provision as allowing the sale of liquor anywhere in the City except south of Pleasant Hill Road. That is not what was intended when the provision was enacted. There are places in Carbondale that are "wet" and other places are "dry." The section of the City Code prohibiting sale of alcohol south of Pleasant Hill Road was meant to do just that, not declare that alcohol could be sold anywhere in the rest of the City. Otherwise, why would the City Code still have a provision on how you change unoccupied commercially zoned property from "dry" to "wet?"
During the election, and even now in comments about the Council's "inaction" on the liquor issue, the emphasis has consistently been on allowing grocery stores to sell beer and wine. I do not have any problem with that. I have reservations about allowing grocery stores to sell "hard liquor."  I also have reservations about allowing convenience stores and gas stations to sell alcohol. When you look at the ordinance that was proposed, it not only allows grocery stores, gas stations and convenience stores to sell alcohol, but it also removes all caps on the number of licenses. I think this is going to far too fast. I would rather take this a step at a time. Start with allowing the sale of beer and wine in grocery stores. After a reasonable period of time when we can assess what the impact has been, then the City Council may or may not want to go further. Although I don't buy everything in the thick packet of information the current package liquor store licensees provided to the Council, we should not dismiss the substantial body of research that shows a strong correlation between the "density" of alcohol establishments in a community and the incidence of problems such as under-age drinking, domestic violence, sexual abuse, DUI, etc. I think much of this density factor can be attributed to bars and nightclubs, but some of it has to do with the availability of locations where alcohol can be purchased for off-premise consumption. I think we need to do a careful balancing act here. We want shoppers to be able to have more convenient access to beer and wine when they are shopping for food. We want more competition in the liquor market place. But we also have to consider what would happen if you suddenly go from 8 establishments able to sell package liquor to 36 places (all the grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, drug stores, and existing package liquor stores).
Contrary to what many in the public see as a simple issue, it is quite complicated. It is only reasonable to allow the Liquor Advisory Board an opportunity to discuss the Mayor's proposal and mine in their full detail before the City Council reaches a decision. However, it is my desire that this issue be resolved no later than the August 16 Council Meeting.