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Grievous Gallery’s permit for on-site beer and wine delayed

SALISBURY — After its request was tabled once by the Salisbury Planning Board, Grievous Gallery was again put on hold by the City Council on Tuesday after more than a dozen supporters spoke in favor of the gallery receiving a special-use permit for on-site consumption of beer and wine.

After going into a closed session to discuss the definitions in the land development ordinance, the council voted unanimously to table the special-use permit until the next City Council meeting on April 16. Council members asked for the applicant, Elysia Demers, to return with an expert who does not know her personally to present information about appraisal values in the West Square district, where Grievous Gallery is located at 111 W. Bank St.

Council member Tamara Sheffield was absent. Other members concluded that a complete council would break a possible tie.

The council members spoke about the land development ordinance and needed updates. The council has discussed at length Grievous Gallery’s application and another special-use permit for a craft beer shop at 116 W. Innes St., which were both considered to be a bar, nightclub or tavern. The ordinance states a special-use permit will stay with the property and not with the owners.

Council members agreed that they believe Demers would adhere to laws on alcohol sales and whatever potential conditions might accompany the special-use permit, but they worried about future occupants of the building who may not have the same intentions as Demers.

“I’m trying to find a way for this business to get what they’re after, and I don’t think the business is the issue,” Councilman Brain Miller said. “It’s the long-term impact is the issue.”

Council members acknowledged the support the business had during the public hearing.

Some supporters spoke about concerns brought up during public hearings before the Planning Board, which recommended approval of the permit with six conditions, including no alcohol consumption outside the building and limits on gallery hours.

Mark Conforti, a pastor at First United Methodist Church at 217 S. Church St., said he was grateful for the conditions recommended and said although he does not drink alcohol, he actively supports Grievous Gallery.

The gallery is 500 feet from the church, which offers child care. The council had a discussion about whether it should be considered a school. Special-use permits for on-site consumption state a school must be at least be 500 feet away.

Councilwoman Karen Alexander said the language in the ordinance is meant to provide safety for children and even though the child care facility is not state-mandated as a school, she considers it to be a school. Mayor Pro Tem David Post agreed, saying the language about what a school is and isn’t should be clarified.

Johnny Deadmon, a recovering addict, told the council about how the space has allowed him and his wife to let go of grief and anger.

“It’s not just throwing a bottle against a wall; it’s an experience,” Deadmon said.

The council also read into the record a notarized statement from the owners of 127 W. Bank St., who closed on the house in mid-February. The owners said they are thrilled to have Grievous Gallery as a neighbor because it showcases the renewal energy in Salisbury, adding they are for the special-use permit and look forward to enjoying a beer nearby.

“As the neighbor most affected by this decision, I strongly urge council to pass this special-use permit without restrictions,” it stated.

Other business:

• During the public-comment period, Mary Edens read a joint statement from the Salisbury-Rowan NAACP, Women for Community Justice and Salisbury Indivisible calling on the city to remove and relocate the Confederate memorial “Fame.” The statue was vandalized in March, the second time in seven months.

“We stand together and urge the city to pass a resolution of intent to remove and relocate ‘Fame,’ following the examples of cities throughout the South that have chosen the right side of history,” Edens said. “Forward, together. Not one step back.”

About 20 audience members stood in support as she read the last sentence.

Emily Ford and Mike-o Martelli also urged the council to begin a conversation about moving the statue. But Larry Ford said he thinks the city should not erase the past and he does not think the statue is a city issue.

• Council members appointed George Benson and Ellen Robertson to the Fair Housing Committee.

• City Attorney Graham Corriher spoke about the city’s water billing, which requires a $150 security deposit. Several residents have complained about the difficulty of not being able to pass ownership if a family member dies. He said he and two other city staff members will attend training in mid-May about the best practices on water billing.

• Mayor Al Heggins honored women of the city’s fire and police departments with the Women’s History Month proclamation.

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