Bar curfew questioned at city meeting

An extended drinking curfew and new shopping center may be in the works after a handful of students made their voices heard at a town hall meeting Friday night held by the Huntsville Planning and Development Committee.

The meeting was held to discuss questions and concerns about the new Comprehensive Plan, which was designed to help the local government plan new development in the city for the next 20 years.

“The Comprehensive Plan is physical based. It covers things such as parks, trails and the commercial business outlook like restaurants and retail,” City Planner, Stanley Hamrick said. “We want to know what the public thinks to see what the city should pursue.”

Several students spoke out amongst the crowd of residents in the tense public forum, many advocating a new drinking ordinance to allow bars to stay open until 2 a.m.

“There’s a problem with students drinking and driving. An increase in the drinking hours would help prevent students from endangering themselves or endangering others,” Justin Berry said.

Despite a few grumbles, the majority of the crowd seemed to approve of Berry’s argument, which paved the way for more students to give their two cents on the subject.

“I had a friend die in a drunk driving accident on the way up to Huntsville, so I know the dangers of drunk driving first hand,” said Jared McNabb. “Students can’t drink here, so they go somewhere else like College Station or The Woodlands and then try to drive home.”

In addition to the students, at least one Huntsville-area business owner agrees that a new drinking ordinance should be put into effect, both for safety and revenue reasons.

“Right now, the students here in Huntsville leave and spend their dollars elsewhere,” Sandra Bell, owner of the Stardust Room, said. “We need to keep the students safe and we need to keep them here. We need to get into the 21st century and get a 2 a.m. drinking law.”

Not so well received by residents was news of the pending development of a shopping center in the space between Wal-Mart and Raven’s Nest. According to one resident who spoke out on the subject, the center will include a Target and should be completed sometime in 2008.

Although in the early stages of development, the plan could bring much needed revenue for the city and some much needed variety for students.

Yet many residents voiced concerns about the center ruining the natural ambience of the city and questioned its revenue-raising potential.

Students and residents can track the progress of the Comprehensive Plan at The Planning and Development Committee will hold two more town hall meetings before the final drafting of the plan begins in late October.

“It’s been 20 years since we’ve updated our Comprehensive Plan, and [the current plan] is past its life,” Hamrick said. “Right now, we’re just here to listen. We want to see what the public thinks and try to get a feel for what the people want.”

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