Neighbors split over rezoning for proposed reception hall

Published 8:22 am Friday, October 24, 2014

A proposed ordinance to rezone the old Coney Flowers American Legion Post No. 547 at 544 East Ave. from A-3 Residential to B-Business to open a reception hall brought about a lot of discussion from supporters and opponents of the ordinance during Tuesday night’s public hearing at the Bogalusa City Council meeting.

The building was closed around 1987.

The Rev. Theodore Newman, who lives nearby behind the building on May Avenue, was the first to respond to the proposal and was ardently opposed to the zoning change because of what he said it could do to the neighborhood.

“We presented this question to the Zoning Commission last month. I’ve been living there since 1967. It’s a good peaceful neighborhood. I would love for it to stay like that.”

Newman said he recently called the Bogalusa Police Department because of loud noise coming from the building. during a function.

“The officer went into my bedroom and heard the noise,” Newman said. “We signed a petition against this place years ago. You’ve got the noise, people milling around, stealing and parking problems. I haven’t always been a preacher. I can tell you where you’ve got alcohol involved, you’re going to have difficulty. All the noise and ruckus makes it difficult for me to rest at night. If this passes, the kind of license they want as a club will certainly disrupt our community. I’m asking you to adhere to what the Zoning Commission passed.”

Louis and Doris Dawson own the business in question.

“It’s been a good place. We can serve liquor in our homes, and the same thing will happen,” Doris Dawson said. “We’re trying to help the people. We’re trying to live and let live. I’m born again, and I want to do the right thing. If it’s not the right thing, I’ll shut it down,” a comment that drew scattered applause from the audience.

One other person spoke out against the proposed change, while the majority of speakers supported the change.

Marvin Austin brought up the question of additional security at the establishment during his time at the podium.

“Don’t knock us down because of two people,” Doris Dawson said.

District B Councilman Michael O’Ree, who introduced the ordinance, said he has spoken at length to people in the neighborhood who could be affected by the proposal.

“If four people can determine what can come or go in this city, then we’ve got a sad city,” O’Ree said. “I think we need to do the right thing.”

The ordinance was tabled and will be brought back up for discussion at a future meeting.

In other business, the City Council accepted an ordinance to rezone 1100 College St. from A-3 Residential to B-1 Business to open a snowball stand at 1100 College St.

It also accepted ordinances authorizing Mayor Charles Mizell to contract with International Paper for tenant improvements for a paper storage warehouse located at 215 Industrial Parkway Drive and to enter into a lease agreement with G. Fairley Grantham, to build hangars at the George R. Carr Memorial Airport.

Also Tuesday, the City Council passed a resolution regarding the policy on donation of sick time for the Public Works Department. Sick leave may accumulate after 260 days or 2,080 hours. Employees must have completed the 90-day probationary period. Employees may donate a maximum of 24 days or 192 hours. The total maximum time an employee may donate during their employment is 2,080 hours.

An ordinance was introduced to authorize Mizell to enter into a grant agreement with the State Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, Office of Cultural Development and Division of Historic Preservation. Areas of historic designation in Bogalusa are targeted for fix-up.

In his administrative remarks, Mizell spoke about the recent violence that has gripped the city.

“Have we become numb to violence? It’s sad when we no longer feel these parents’ pain,” Mizell said. “We’ve had a city that has been healing for a while. But just in the last few months, it appears it all has been unraveling. It’s a team effort to find any way to make this city safer. We’re here to make Bogalusa the best place it can be.”

O’Ree summed up his thoughts on the subject.

“It all is going to have to start with the parents,” he said. “Politicians don’t raise kids. We need to stop hiding behind the truth. When we do certain things, consequences follow. We know what is behind all of this.”