Home Politics City Council approves Blue Gator renovation despite concern

City Council approves Blue Gator renovation despite concern

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63 N. Court St., home of the vacant Blue Gator, will be allowed to extend its balcony four feet following city council’s decision to allow the owner a revocable license following two weeks of discussion.

The renovations will only continue to be approved by the Planning and Development Committee if the owner, Bryan Wharton, remains in charge of the property and there is no change of use to the property. The city’s main concern is that the building may violate the city’s air right of way.

The property’s renovation will include noise reduction elements and the owners will be responsible for public right of way. No more than 25 people can occupy the balcony at any time and no personal objects or furniture will be allowed.

“We have discussed this a lot,” Third Ward Rep. Michelle Papai said. “I have received a lot of comments, mostly negative. Most people who have come to me have asked that it not be granted. They do not want to see another terrace on Court St. My concern is that we do have some inconsistencies.”

Representative Papai’s concern dealt with the irregularity of balcony lengths and additions throughout the city. She hopes to clean up the ordinance language and the follow-up to make sure each balcony is following city code.

“I personally do not know that I am happy with 48 inches,” Papai said. “Some of the other ones that we have measured are 24 inches, there is a 30 inch out there. So, I just know that we have inconsistencies.”

Other members had already made up their mind.

“Let’s get this out of the way. I am for it the way the language is now. I will vote yes for it,” Second Ward Rep. Jeffrey Risner said.

The council hopes to move forward with the first reading of the ordinance, correct wording and all, during next week’s meeting.

“I am hoping that when the time comes to move forward with this particular ordinance that we are able to explain what constitutes a balcony, an awning, or any feature that goes over our air right of way,” At-Large Rep. Steve Patterson said.

Wharton plans to create two four-person apartments within the structure, which will share the balcony. The Blue Gator, once a bar, has stood vacant since 2008 and the renovations ease the city’s mind because vacant buildings have a higher threat as a fire hazard.

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