The Bay St. Louis City Council on Tuesday evening voted to approve two Planning & Zoning board recommendations despite a standing-room-only audience filled with people against the proposed changes.
One of the measures the council approved was to allow property owners James and Catherine MacPhaille to include a drive-through window at the P.J.'s Coffee Shop and Creole Creamery they plan to open in the 200 block of Main Street, right next to Social Chair.
The plan for the drive-through would have cars enter on Main Street and exit on Second Street
Critics of the project has said that it would be unfair to other local businesses to bring a "chain" coffee shop into Old Town. Others have said that a drive-through would be a safety hazard to pedestrians; or that it would destroy the character of the quaint Old Town location.
The MacPhailles also own Century Hall on Second Street; the historic A&G Theatre on Beach Boulevard; the former Bay High building on Second Street; and 200 North Beach Restaurant and Hurricane Hunters Bar.
James MacPhaille has said publicly that people have no need to worry, he plans to be a good neighbor; and that there would be an auxiliary lane in the drive-through to help handle any overflow and keep everything safe.
"Our Planning & Zoning board voted unanimously for that," Ward 4 Councilman Larry Smith said this week, "and we want to use innovative and diverse ideas in order to get traffic into the downtown area to help the local merchants, and of course Mr. MacPhaille will be putting in his dime ... to help draw people downtown, where they're sorely needed. if we can get some people down there, even if they are driving through, they'll see the things downtown that are worth coming back to enjoy."
Smith also spoke in favor of the other controversial measure the board approved Tuesday evening, a change in language in the light-industrial zone where the old Alcan Cable building has stood vacant for the past several years.
William Adam, who owns Coast Wood Products, Inc. on Third Street in Bay St. Louis, asked for the change to allow "by-right" use for several different types of project.
Adam wants to buy the Alcan Cable property, but said it currently has no rights of use attached to it. Adam said the city stripped him of his by-right use of his Third Street property in 2010. "We need property rights. Everybody needs property rights.
“Why would I purchase land that has no property privileges attached to it?” he said.
There are several homes nearby, and about 58 residents have signed a petition opposing Adam's plans, saying they fear there will be some type of heavy industrial project developed on the property without any oversight from planning & zoning or the city council.
Adam said he would not let that happen.
Adam says he has no immediate plans to develop the property, but he may want to build single family homes on the property, or duplexes or possibly a light manufacturing operation.
He also entertains the possibility of moving his wood work and cabinet business that has operated on Third Street for 27 years to the property.
The council voted 4-3 to approve an edited version of the zoning amendment. The area encompasses about 30 acres. Smith voted for the amendment, with Councilman Gene Hoffman seconding. Also voting in favor were Gary Knoblock and Josh Desalvo. Voting against were Doug Seal, Jeff Reed and Buddy Zimmerman.
"I don't want people in this town to misunderstand," Adam said. "I'm pro-Bay St. Louis and pro-business and pro-jobs."
"Hopefully this will maybe help that property be able to be sold and bring something in that will help the community there," Mayor Mike Favre said. "I can understand his point -- before he buys the property, he wants some assurances. … i think he's willing to work with the city and the neighborhood on everything."
Smith said he will host a Ward 4 town hall meeting on the issue beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the Bay City Council Chambers.