Davenport zoning board OKs liquor, parking permits

Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2014, 11:11 pm
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By Stephen Elliott, selliott@qconline.com
DAVENPORT — Despite neighbors' protests and city staff's recommendations, the Davenport Zoning Board of Adjustment on Thursday approved a special use permit for a proposed store at 1530 W. 4th St.

The board also granted Mohammad Farraj, the owner of the proposed liquor/convenience store, and his brother, Ramadan, who will operate the store, a parking waiver for the site zone "M-1" — light industrial — that has only one off-street parking space.

Voting for the permits were zoning board chairman Bruce Bleke, vice chair Cathy Hart and board members Caren Carter and Ed Brown. Opposed was James Reistroffer.

In July, Mr. Bleke, Mr. Reistroffer and Ms. Hart voted against the permits; Ms. Carter and Mr. Brown voted for them.

On Thursday, city planner Scott Koops reiterated his July suggestion that the board not approve the requests. He said 20 of the 26 properties within 200 feet of the proposed store were homes.

"Based on the evidence, it's too close to all these structures," Mr. Koops said.

The property formerly was a bar that neighbors blamed for many problems. Mr. Koops also said the proposed store's limited parking area likely would increase congestion on nearby streets and significantly impact public safety.

Davenport requires 15 off-street parking spaces for this size of store, he said.

Thursday's meeting grew heated at times as neighbors complained the area already had too many alcohol sales and cited traffic and personal safety concerns. Mr. Bleke maintained the new business — which will be called 4th Street Spirits — was not a liquor store but a convenience store that sold liquor.

Alan Ouderkirk, 77, of 1537 W. 4th St., said he grew up in the area and lives across the street from the proposed store. The neighborhood already has too many problems, he said.

"As you can tell, nobody wants that liquor store in there," he said.

"We have drunks walking up our alley. They live behind the railroad tracks, which is behind the business," Mr. Ouderkirk said. "They sleep up in there. They come down here."

When Mr. Bleke asked if the problem had been reported to police, Mr. Ouderkirk said "you're not going to chase them drunks out by sending a squad car down there.

"That's a nice thought, but it's not gonna work," he added. "All they'll do is buy it (alcohol), walk outside, and sit there and drink it."

Juan Saltz, of 1604 W. 4th St., said he also was concerned with the safety of his children who play in the area. Parking already is difficult, he said, and a new store would make it more difficult.

Mr. Bleke noted the store also plans to sell "food stuff that your kids may need and want." Mr. Saltz said he had no problems with those offerings.

"It's the liquor and alcohol," he said.

Ms. Carter said limiting the store to just food wouldn't address neighbors' parking concerns. Mr. Saltz said the lack of alcohol sales would mean fewer people.

"You don't know that," Ms. Carter said.

"It seems to me this entire neighborhood is still hurting from the bar being there and the concept of saying there are going to be drunk people coming over from there," she said. "I highly doubt that this man (Ramadan Farraj) is going to sell to a drunk person.

"You might have an issue with race or something to do with the convenience store," Ms. Carter said. "But the parking issue will remain the same."

Mr. Saltz paused before responding.

"Why would I have a race problem?" he asked. "I'm Hispanic."

Ms. Carter also said neighbors should call police if they are having problems with "bums." Mr. Saltz said the police rarely show up.

Ramadan Farraj — who also has Hilltop Grocery, at 1312 N. Harrison St., and Central Grocery in downtown Davenport — said after the meeting he is not trying to put the neighborhood in turmoil. His other stores are successful, he said, and provide a service to the community.

"I'm not a nuisance," he said. "I don't get into trouble for loud noise. I don't sell to minors.

"I'm just a businessman trying to make it in this world."

He also said he would work with neighbors and would post signs limiting parking to 15 minutes.

"I'm bringing up the value in the neighborhood," he said. "I'm throwing a lot of money into it. It's better than having an abandoned building.

"It's a convenience store. People will be able to get lunch meats, cheese, milk, eggs, trash bags, toilet paper, all that," he said. "Hopefully, it can be worked out."

He expects remodeling the building will take about six months before he can open.

Mr. Koops said the Farraj brothers used a request for reconsideration to seek a change in the zoning board's July decision. They also could have gone through the Iowa District Court.

Davenport Ald. Bill Boom, 3rd Ward, said the city council will have the final vote on a liquor license for the proposed store.


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