Friday, June 28, 2013

Saluki Bookstore Sold

The Saluki Bookstore building on East Grand now has  a "Sold" sign in the front window and a blog reader emailed that they had seen what looked like work being done on the HVAC equiptment.  If I was a betting man, I would wager that 710 Bookstore will move there for the year or so it will take for the $20 million downtown development that Mayor Fritzler expressed concern about Halloween disrupting.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

City Council Meeting

Started off watching the meeting late on TV, but got tired of talking back to the screen during the discussion on rescinding the ordinance closing so walked over to the council meeting shortly after 9 p.m.

It took me aback how much space the council had allotted for the meeting as seating was double what the council sets up for a typical meeting.  Maybe there were more people there during the previous two hours.  If so, they had all left by 9 p.m. 

The second thing that struck me was how empty the place was, given how much space had been allocated for seating. Since the camera focuses on the speaking individual, you don't see the only half a dozen or so people sitting throughout the rest of the room.   It looked as if the council expected a much higher attendance for the meeting, likely because of the discussion of Halloween on the agenda, than actually turned out.

 I saw Sally Carter of Hangar 9, who was the only bar owner to speak about the ordinance, and the executive directors of the Carbondale Convention and Tourism Bureau, Carbondale Main Street and the Chamber of Commerce, all of whom spoke in favor of changing the ordinance to allow the three remaining affected bars to remain open Halloween weekend as did Sandy Litecky, though I think she spoke as herself and not as an official representative of the Arbor District.  The only person to speak in opposition was an SIUC student, who pointed out that Polar Bear, cited by several speakers as an example of an alcohol related event that happens without significant disruption, takes several months of planning ahead of time.

Lance Jack sat in the audience as well.  Due to his ownership of Fat Patties, he could not participate in council discussion on the topic, not will he vote on it.  Since spectators are warned to turn off their cell phones and there is a sign at the entrance warning the same, I found it amusing when Jack's started ringing in the center of the meeting, causing him to exit hurriedly.

This was only a discussion regarding ending the ordinance.  I expect to see a proposal to repeal it on the agenda for the next meeting, possibly with a 1 year sunset clause, so if the students and outsiders get out of hand this October, the closure would resume in 2014.  From listening to council member's discussion, I think Fritzler and Fronabarger would vote to keep the ordinance as it stands, while the other four (Jack, of course, unable to vote on the issue), would vote for repeal.

The Strip Circa 2005

Also pointed out by Jane Adams, here is a guide to the Strip, aka S. Illinois, from 2005.  Technically, several of them were/are not on the Strip proper but they did contribute to Carbondale nightlife at the time.  How many do you remember?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Jackson County Map

Courtesy of Jane Adams, here is a link to the GIS Map site located on the Jackson County website.  You can use it to search for the owner of any parcel of land within the boundaries of the county.  So if you have a desire to know who owns the house you are considering renting or the palatial mini-mansion down the street, now you can find out, though there are some glitches and omissions on the site.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Great Wall Remodeling?

 As a reader of the blog emailed me over the weekend,   Great Wall Super Buffet, which has been closed for the past two weeks or so, is undergoing extensive remodeling and repair of the exterior of the building.  No indication as to what has happened to the interior, when it will re-open, or even it it will re-opren as the same business.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Parking Meters

One would think that after almost 10 years, the city would change the ordinance regarding parking meter enforcement.  I was under the impression that the ordinance had been changed to Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. from the still posted Monday-Saturday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. but the city code still shows Monday through Saturday enforcement. Near as I can tell, the city does not enforce meters after 5 p.m or on Saturday.  However, I still regularly see people putting money in the meters on Saturday.  Just last night I walked up S. Illinois shortly after 5 p.m. and saw someone putting money in a meter by Dairy Queen.

Unlike a lot of people, I am not opposed to the idea of parking meters in downtown, especially in the areas closer to the University, such as the parking lot by 710 Bookstore.  Prior to the meters installation, students would fill the free, convenient parking spots for hours, not leaving any space for people who wanted to shop at 710 or one of the adjacent businesses.  Metering removed that problem, plus money from the meters helps fund resurfacing and maintenance of public parking spaces.

However, I do think it time to update the ordinance to reflect current enforcement, or, if the ordinance was changes a number of years, as I thought it was, update the city code and signs to reflect this.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

More on Oakland Avenue Auto Repair

Harping on this again but I heard at yesterday's Chamber of Commerce meeting that the building was empty so stopped by this morning and took a look through the windows.  Sure enough, the only things in there were a Jetski, one car and a mop and bucket.  No lifts, no tools, no diagnostic equipment.  According to city manager Kevin Baity, the city has attempted to contact the owner of the business (not the building, that remains Home Rentals) but with no luck.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Road Closure

Press release from the city:

Commencing on Thursday, June 20, 2013 from 7:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M., Monday through Friday, West Schwartz Street will be closed to through traffic from Oakland Avenue to Eason Drive. This construction is scheduled to last approximately two weeks.

The City of Carbondale greatly appreciates motorists’ cooperation and patience and urges motorists to use caution in all work zones. In order to prevent delays, please seek alternate routes during this time period.

Icebox/Jay's Remodel

Walked past the Icebox Bar and Grill/Jay's location this morning.  Both the Icebox and the Jay's logos have come off the awning and the front door.  Construction workers are extensively remodeling the inside into whatever it becomes next.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Preservation Commiission Meeting

The Carbondale Preservation meets tonight at 7 p.m. in Room 103 of the Civic Center.  Main things on the agenda are votes on a recommendation for approval  of demolition of the Dillinger Feed Store building and a request to paint a mural on the side of the building at 114 N. Illinois.

I can understand the need for approval of the demolition of the Dillinger building.  It is one of the oldest buildings in Carbondale and any demolition of a building in the downtown business area should run by city council to make sure there is no risk to public safety.  Not so sure as to the reasoning for the mural on the side of the building.  After all, the Practice Pad put up a couple of signs on the outside of the building, which they would need to get approved by Building and Neigborhood Services, as all signs must be, but not sure why a mural would need the Preservation Commission's approval, unless they are applying for historic designation and the benefits that come with it.

Friday, June 14, 2013

City Council and Citations

Caught the tail end of last Tuesday's City Council meeting just in time to listen to council comments. The Southern has more info here.  Not sure what brought it on but Jane Adams, the Mayor and Don Monty were discussing an apparent increase in the number of citations the city has handed out for various violations of regulations, with Adams especially concerned that the number of citations handed out had significantly increase above the number handed out in past years.  I have heard similar comments from other local  business owners recently, indicating that the city has upped the level of enforcement in recent months. 

The Mayor defended the actions of the city, indicating that the citations did follow the law and that just because enforcement might have been lax in the past did not excuse the violators from not following the code.  Monty commented that it might be a good idea to contact business owners and gvie them warnings first, rather than pushing ahead with enforcement without warning.

On a related note, I received the above notice chastising me for leaving a bag of litter out by the curb for too long.  Yes, I admit I did  leave a bag of trash out for trash pick up. They didn't and I never got around to pulling it back in. The dating on this is what got me.  The date of issuance is May 15, 2013, with a warning that a Notice to Appear and court fine could result if the corrections were not made but the required time.  The required time:  4 p.m. May 15, 2013.

Maybe it's just me, but if you are going to call me into court with a potential fine, giving me a little more notice than 4 p.m. on the date the warning is issued might be a good idea, especially given that many people leave for work in the morning and do not return home until late afternoon.

This bugged me enough that I called Building & Neighborhood Services for an explanation and was told the trash was viewed like trash cans, which are expected to be removed from the curb the day they go to the curb, which really didn't explain the time constraint.  Oh well, note to self, if trash doesn't get picked up, be sure to pull it in for next week.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Prayer during Graduation Op-Ed

I have to wonder if Harry Mosley would be so enthused about a class valedictorian reciting a prayer during graduation if the student had been a Muslim reciting a prayer from the Koran or a Hindu offering a prayer to Vishnu.  Freedom of speech and religion is well and good but it is a lot easier to support when you agree with what is being said.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Housing Grant

Did you know if you live in the area surrounding West Chestnut and own the home you live in, you can apply for a grant from the city to help rehab your home?  Me either.  There's a decent amount of paperwork to fill out but you can get up to $40,000 to repair your home, as long as the value remains below $258,690 after all the work gets completed.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

State Finance Moved

Looks as if the State Finance location that closed up on N. Illinois has moved to Eastgate Plaza.  Probably a better location as the parking there is certainly better than their old location.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Flood Plain Insurance

The reason mortgage lenders make you buy flood plain insurance if you buy a home in a flood plain is that the home is likely to get flooded.  I am not sure what Congress' rationale was back in 1968 to pass a law allowing people to keep putting in homes where they should not be, but I am glad to see it coming to an end.  I feel sorry for the people who have house in the area and likely the ones who bought houses there under the old program should be grandfathered in, but it does not make a lot of sense to keep subsidizing such behavior.

Friday, June 7, 2013

New Bar in Downtown

Looks as if there may be a new bar moving into downtown.  On the agenda for the Liquor Control Commission 's next meeting is an application for a Class B liquor license for the University Lounge, which  lists its address at 520 S. Illinois Ave, the site of the recently closed Country Goddess.  The building seems pretty small for a bar, as it is only about as big as the El Greco building.  Plan apparently however is to add a beer garden to the building, if approved, which would likely go in the empty lot next door.

However, putting a beer garden there would run counter to the city's expressed desires of seeing an actual storefront infill the location, one of the reasons, from what I have heard, that the city did not wish to sell the property to El Greco for construction of an outside dining patio.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Oakland Avenue Auto Repair Re-zoning

Planning Commission meets at seven tonight to discuss three re-zoning requests.  The one likely to get the most attention is Lindsay Fisher's request to rezone the area at 413 N. Oakland to a Neighborhood Business District and then apply for a Special Uses permit to allow Oakland Avenue Auto Repair to re-open after the city served it a cease and desist order last month.

The problem is the people who live in the area moved there without the expectation that an auto repair shop would set up operations next door, increasing both the amount of noise in the area and the amount of exhaust coming from the facility.  Maintaining their quality of life argues against against approving the permit.

However, the city is actively encouraging development in that area, witness the designation of the stretch of Oakland running from Sycamore to the old high school complex a couple of blocks south, as a TIF Distict.  Given this, Fisher could reasonably argue that the city wants development there, which is just what the business will do.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Dillinger's Feed Store

Certificate of Appropriates Committee meeting at 2:30 tomorrow afternoon at Dillinger's Feed Store to discuss demolition of the building.  Dillinger's has sat empty for a couple of years now and my understanding is the current owner would like to demolish it in order to provide more parking for the Newel House building.  However, since Dillinger's is one of the oldest buildings remaining in the downtown area, the owner needs approval from the committee before demolition can start.  Given Carbondale's track record on preservation, however, dollars to doughnuts the committee approves it and the building gets razed by the end of summer.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Internet Sales Tax

Saw this letter (Scroll down)in last week's Southern from a reader complaining about the push to collect sales tax on internet purchases.

First, it is not a new tax.  By state law, anytime you buy something in a state that collects a sales tax, you are supposed to pay the sales tax.  There is a spot on your income tax form for you to record the tax due on any items that you purchased during the previous year that are subject to sales tax on which you did not pay the tax.  Do people pay it?  Usually just attorneys and tax accountants.  The rest of us are scofflaws since it is too much trouble and expense for the Department of Revenue to chase each and every person down to collect the sales tax due.  That still doesn't mean you are not legally required to pay sales tax on your internet purchases, just that almost all of us don't.

Secondly, the Federal government actually exempted online retailers from the requirement to collect sales tax, unless they had a physical presence in the state as it was perceived as too big a financial burden to require them to collect and remit the tax in the early days of internet sales.  Today, however no-one can seriously argue that companies such as Amazon, Zapdos, Overstock, etc. still need financial support, especially since software has advanced to the point that collecting and remitting it could easily be automated.  If Staples is able to collect sales tax from me for online purchases, I see no reason that cannot do the same thing.