by BRAD ROLLINS
With just hours to spare before its conditional use permit to serve alcohol was set to expire, Zelick’s Icehouse won a second six-month reprieve from the San Marcos Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday.
In December, the commission gave the Katz brothers, who opened the popular courtyard bar on Hopkins Street in July last year, six months to reach some kind of accommodation with the owners of next-door Crystal River Inn, who say late-night and early-morning noise from the bar is ruining their business. The parties entered mediation and, despite a last minute push for resolution during the day on Tuesday, they arrived at last night’s P&Z meeting with situation essentially unchanged from six months ago.
After failing to pass an earlier motion to renew Zelick’s permit for three years — the normal term for an established bar with a clean record under the city’s points system — the commission voted 5-1 for a provisional six-month extension instead. The measure also includes conditions that require the bar owners to prohibit motorcycle parking on the property line with the inn and shutting off music as soon as the bar closes at 2 a.m.
The permit was set to expire today although, practically speaking, its lapse wouldn’t have resulted in the bar’s closure since its owners have a pending application for renewal.
Zelick’s supporters argued that they had built their business within the city’s land use and zoning rules and abided by the conditions of their permit. Since opening a year ago, the bar has not been cited by the police department for noise ordinance violations, Zelick’s supporters said.
Chase Katz said the city’s new downtown area SmartCode — adopted since they started their project — allows them to move their south fence to the lot line, expanding the courtyard by enough to move most outdoor games away from the inn side of the property. They plan to eventually build a two-story restaurant on their property between the inn and the bar, which Chase Katz said would resolve the issues longterm.
Crystal River Inn’s supporters argued that Zelick’s had misrepresented the nature of the business they intended to build when the Dillons and other neighbors supported their rezoning request for the property in June 2010. The project was sold as a quiet “garden bar,” Cathy Dillon said, not as a bustling hub of San Marcos nightlife.
Because the inn was “there first,” they said, the bar owners bear the burden of resolving the noise issue.
With three planning commissioners absent, it’s possible if not likely that the bar could have won an outright three-year extension had the missing votes been present. Commissioners Travis Kelsey and Corey Carothers were not there and Commissioner Bucky Couch was called away from the meeting before a vote was taken.
As it happened, Commissioner Carter Morris’ motion for a three-year extension with the new conditions failed on a tie. Commissioners Chris Wood and Kenneth Ehlers joined Morris; Commissioners Bill Taylor, Curtis Seebeck and Randy Bryan opposed extending the permit for a full term.