Thursday, February 21, 2019
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The Tunica Times • P.O. Box 308/986 Magnolia Street, Tunica, MS 38676

Planning Commission says no to bar variance


Planning Commission members voted this week to adhere to county zoning laws, turning down a request for a variance that would have allowed a bar within 1,000 feet of a church.

Bar owner Jesse Wilson sought the zoning exception for a new business, J’s Bar and Lounge, that he wanted to open at 1870 Old Highway 61 North. Wilson said in this variance application that the business would operate Monday through Saturday from 2 p.m. to 4 a.m. and employ five to seven people. The site is 575 feet south of Antioch Church.

“We want the county to grow, (but) this does not seem to be the place for this business,” commissioner Jannie Bonds said.

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A number of people who live or work close to the proposed bar spoke out against it during a hearing Tuesday, March 27.

One woman said she operates a nonprofit for battered women that is next to the site. She said she didn’t “need that negativity” around what is intended to be a safe haven.

Carol “Doll” Gill said her home backs up to the property. She said she likes to sit outside on her back patio in the afternoon.

“I’m going to hear that noise,” she said, adding that the neighborhood had been in that location for many years.

Another neighborhood resident, Jack Graves, asked planning commissioners not to “go around the law.”

Tunica mayor Chuck Cariker agreed. The proposed bar is just outside the corporate limits of the town.

“The laws were put into place to protect the church,” Cariker said. Allowing variances has a domino effect that ultimately undermines the original laws, he added.

Commission chairman Willie Shields and planning director Charles Finkley favored a compromise that would have granted the variance for a three-month period, with a review to follow. The Planning Commission would also have stipulated the addition of sound proofing to the building and limited the hours of operation from 6 p.m. to midnight.

Wilson sought to alleviate concerns, saying at the hearing that he would have security inside and outside the establishment to keep patrons safe and to monitor parking areas.

But ultimately, those safeguards weren’t enough.

“It’s unfair to upset those who have lived there a long time,” Bonds said.

Commissioner Justin Cariker agreed, saying he didn’t want to “throw laws out the window.”

Two of the five commissioners were absent from this week’s meeting, Carolyn Canada and Latony Burks.

In other business, the Planning Commission approved a variance on rear yard setbacks for Pleasant Ridge M.B. Church and a conditional use permit for a towing and storage facility in the resort area.

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