Commercial Real Estate and Zoning and Real Estate & Retail

Zoning board denies plan for club catering to under-21 crowd

June 1, 2010

The music has stopped for a proposed under-21 club at Madison Avenue and Southport Road after a city board on Tuesday unanimously denied a controversial rezoning request.

A company called Next Millennium Club LLC, led by Josh Skaggs, had hoped to open a 7,500-square-foot club in a vacancy-prone strip center at 6830 Madison Ave.

But the club faced fierce opposition from community groups, police and neighbors, who feared the large groups of teens the club would attract could grow unruly.

"If it's approved, I guarantee we'll be busy," said Homecroft Police Chief William Murray, at a Board of Zoning Appeals hearing. "It'll be a long hot summer."

Janet Mallett, an attorney representing the owner, countered that the club would bring a productive use to long-vacant retail space, generating new taxes and creating jobs. She said Skaggs would be a responsible neighbor, noting he had already gotten approval to hire off-duty IMPD officers to keep the venue safe. He also vowed to hire private security personnel, and promised to pay for new landscaping to bring the run-down property up to code.

Mallett said the number of club-goers would fall far short of the maximum capacity of 720. The facility would be open mainly on Fridays and Saturdays, and some Thursdays during the summer.

Barbara Kyle Jones, president of the Homecroft Town Council, said the neighborhood is looking for "proper, family-oriented" businesses, not an after-hours gathering place for teens. Putting an under-21 club in the center, which has a Dollar General, Papa John's and an auto repair shop, would have required a rezoning. The zoning board voted 5-0 against the move.

Jones said she was concerned in particular by a sign, already up on the proposed club's door, that warns that no guns, drugs, alcohol or cigarettes are allowed.

"This very clearly denotes there will be problems for this location," she said.

IMPD Detective William Carter agreed. His primary concern is where teens go after they leave such clubs: They typically congregate in nearby parking lots or at gas stations. The crowds are large and can be hard to control. Fights can break out, and in the past they have led to shootings, Carter said.

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