2 hearings this week on plans for lounge

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 23, 2009

The public will get two chances this week, beginning Monday at 10 a.m., to weigh in on the ongoing controversy over a proposed lounge above longtime Washington Street eatery Burger Village.

If you go

Public hearings on a second-story balcony and stairs for a proposed lounge above Burger Village will be at 10 a.m. Monday and Wednesday in room 109 of the City Hall Annex, 1415 Washington St.

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Both public hearings are being held to challenge an Oct. 13 ruling by the Vicksburg Board of Architectural Review, which approved installation of a second-story balcony at 1220 Washington St. The first hearing is for Linda Ashcraft, who lives across the street from Burger Village and is renovating the property into retail and residential space. Ashcraft maintains the balcony should have never been approved according to historic district guidelines.

The second hearing, scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday, is for prospective lounge manager Charles Ross, who is challenging the architectural review board’s decision to allow the balcony, but not a staircase, for direct access to the lounge. Monday’s hearing is the lone item on the mayor and aldermen’s agenda, while Wednesday’s will take place during a regularly scheduled meeting with additional items on the agenda.

The lounge, technically billed as an expansion of Burger Village, has been a point of contention among downtown residents and business owners since plans were announced in early September. At two previous public hearings, tempers flared on both sides of the debate and accusations of racism surfaced. Mayor Paul Winfield urged everyone interested in the discussion to participate in this week’s hearings, but stressed the hearings should be discussions and not arguments.

“I hope people will come out and participate in the process, but I also hope they’ll base their comments on the facts and not their emotions,” he said. “The bottom line is downtown was here before this, and it will be here after it’s over.”

Some people have clamored for Winfield to recuse himself from the hearings because he interjected himself into the debate at the Oct. 13 hearing and urged the board to support Ross’ application. Winfield said he had every legal right to participate in the Oct. 13 hearing and has no plans of recusing himself from the hearings this week.

“I think the public deserved to know how I felt about it,” the mayor said of the Oct. 13 hearing.

Ross had originally secured an appeals hearing before the mayor and aldermen on Oct. 9 to challenge a Sept. 1 ruling by the Vicksburg Board of Zoning Appeals rejecting his application for a nightclub. However, Ross withdrew the appeal due to a change in the business application.

The original application identified the business as a bar or nightclub, which is a restricted-use in the C-3 zone according to downtown regulations approved in 2007. Ross has said he will instead apply for a full-service restaurant business license, which the downtown zoning ordinance allows for as long as 60 percent of the business floor is set up for restaurant dining use and alcohol sales are “incidental to food services.”

Paula Wright, in the city planning department, said Ross’ business application for the full-service restaurant had not been received as of Thursday. It it is to be approved, the application will must be accompanied by an OK from the state health department and a liquor license from Mississippi Alcoholic Beverage Control.


Contact Steve Sanoski at ssanoski@vicksburgpost.com