O'Fallon Progress

Video gaming parlor plan can’t draw enough support from aldermen

The O’Fallon City Council on Monday shot down a café proposal that included video gaming plans.

Local businessman Abdullah Abraham of Maryville, who owns Raqqa Inc., planned the O’Fallon Cafe for 1334 Central Park Drive, Suite 3, to include alcohol sales and consumption in a vacant 1,300-square-foot space of Sunrise Center II.

The city staff, which recommended approval with conditions, had determined that the land use was consistent with a tavern/bar, because of video gaming, alcohol sales and a limited food menu. Therefore, it needed planned use approval, and a liquor license, video gaming permit and set an 11 p.m. closing time as conditions.

In a 4-10 vote, the council did not advance the ordinance on first reading. The proposal had not been recommended by the O’Fallon Planning Commission, whose members rejected it 3-6 after a public hearing at their April 25 meeting. The Community Development Committee, which split its vote 3-3 at its meeting, did not recommend it either.

Three of the four new alderman voted for the proposal, Mark Morton, Dan Witt and Ross Rosenberg, along with Alderman Ray Holden, while new Alderman Andrew Lopinot sided with Aldermen Courtney Marsh, David Cozad, Kevin Hagarty, Ned Drolet, Matt Smallheer, Bob Kueker, Jerry Albrecht, Matt Gilreath and Rich Meile against it.

After the meeting, Cozad said he voted against it because of the gaming concerns.

Gary Hursey, an O’Fallon resident and businessman who is also an O’Fallon Township trustee, spoke against the proposal during public comments, describing it as a mini-casino — convenience gambling that wasn’t needed.

“I don’t think we need it. It will make a lot of money on the backs of taxpayers,” he said, noting the addictive nature of gambling that would take money away from necessities and other things for O’Fallon residents.

He quoted renowned billionaire Warren Buffett, who called gaming “a tax on stupidity.”

He asked the council to consider their integrity when voting.

“Look at who you are and what you are as a bedroom community of very nice people,” he said.

He said he wasn’t against non-profit organizations using it to help fund their operations.

After the vote, Hursey said: “I think O’Fallon should be run as a family-friendly city.”

Other business proposals move ahead

The council advanced three other business proposals on to the June 5 meeting for second reading approval.

Sal Cincotta has plans for a café on the first floor and a photography studio on the second floor of a building at 2 S. Lincoln Ave. The council passed a zoning amendment and TIF redevelopment agreement on first reading.

Cincotta originally planned to rehab the property, which he dubbed “The Drug Store” because of its former use. But it was in such poor condition that it must be torn down, and will be replaced by a new two-story, brick building. The café will serve coffee, sandwiches and desserts, and sidewalk dining will be permitted.

Hubbard’s Pro-Am is expanding to include an Indoor Gun Range, to be located at 508-510 West Highway 50. Shooting Range Industries will construct it, following indoor range criteria to reduce the noise with sound absorbing materials in the ceiling and wall, so as to not be a nuisance to surrounding properties.

Nathan and Autymn Hubbard will remodel the current building to add 4,500 square feet for a gun shop and the range. They will continue conceal and carry classes. The parking lot must have 31 parking spaces, the staff said.

After the public hearing discussion April 25, the staff added two requirements — that all nationally recognized standards and certifications as required for indoor gun ranges must be met, and certification from all federal, state and ATF requirements must be maintained.

Roadwork for a proposed Ashland Avenue extension between Hartman Lane and Old Collinsville Road was discussed before the council approved first reading of David Mark Flota’s request. He wants to place a free-standing ice vending machine on the parking lot of St. Clair Bowl. The business, Ice House America, will sell ice and water.

Community Development Director Ted Shekell explained that if funding for the road project would be approved, an agreement is already in place that the owner will have 90 days to relocate the ice machine to the south side of the building.

Other action

In other action, the council approved a three-year labor contract with city workers who are members of Local 670, Laborers’ International Union of America, AFL-CIO.

This collective bargaining agreement includes a 3 percent increase in salary and the addition of boots to the clothing allowance, but other than that, it is the same as contracts OK’d in previous years.

It covers rates of pay, wages, hours of employment and other conditions of employment for members, and was discussed in executive session, then unanimously OK’d afterward in open session.

The council OK’d an annexation agreement with Alex P. and Katherine S. Joseph for 5.04 acres at 9805 Rieder Road in Lebanon.

The property had been zoned agricultural in St. Clair County. Now it will be classified rural residential, and the owners want a residential water tap.

No one spoke at a public hearing held on the matter.

During public comments, Ron Zelms, a Ward 6 resident, spoke about property tax increases.

His new bill reflects a 6.1 percent increase: St. Clair County, 18.9 percent; O’Fallon School District 203, 5.8 percent; and O’Fallon city, 5.3 percent.

“Since 2013, my taxes have gone up 10.2 percent — city is 9.9 percent,” he said. “At some point, it’s got to stop. It’s getting to the point where it’s out of control.”

He questioned O’Fallon’s reserve fund not being used to provide relief to taxpayers.

The mayor also announced a training session for aldermen will be set up for the first week of June.

Special event use permits were granted to:

▪ St. Clare Church for a Corpus Christi Procession on June 18, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. between 1411 Cross Street in Shiloh and the old St. Clare Church on Third Street.

▪ Global Brew for a five-year anniversary party June 16, from 11 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. at 455B Regency Park.

▪ Sam’s Club, at 1350 West Highway 50, for their seasonal garden and landscaping items outdoors April 26 through June 26.