Originally created 01/18/98

Commission to address bingo parlor zoning issue



NORTH AUGUSTA -- A controversial bingo parlor located on Buena Vista Avenue goes back before North Augusta City Council on Monday night.

Although bingo has been played on Cecil Barnes' property at the corner of Buena Vista and Barton Road since 1981, it will take special action by the city council and the North Augusta Planning Commission to keep it there beyond 1999.

The North Augusta Planning Commission, as well as the city council, turned down Mr. Barnes' request in November to rezone the property from C-3 (general commercial) to C-5 (thoroughfare) to allow both video poker and bingo to remain where they are.

Mayor Lark Jones, however, and some council members want to take another look at the problem, but some others want bingo as well as video poker out of the area.

The change in status for the bingo parlor came as a result of a revision of the city's Zoning and Development Standards in 1996 that allowed both video poker and bingo in the C-5 zone, currently located only in a triangle bordered by Atomic and East Martintown roads.

Unless the council takes action to avoid it, both the bingo and video poker establishments will have to vacate the premises by Sept. 15, 1999.

"Since 1981, bingo has been on that property," Mr. Barnes said at the time his initial request was denied.

"I have over $500,000 invested in that property. It's a shame and a disgrace that I spent that much money and I'll have to fold in two years."

Mr. Jones offered Mr. Barnes a ray of hope, however, contending that the C-5 zone was created to provide a location for video poker and "it was not clear to me that the ordinance would affect bingo."

City council members must decide Monday whether to send the issue back to the Planning Commission for redefinition of the section of the standards that deals with nonconforming uses, City Administrator Charles Martin said.

Class A nonconforming uses can be grandfathered or amortized into a zone and remain there as long as the particular use is not expanded.

As nonconforming uses are now defined, bingo is not a Class A nonconforming use and bingo establishments such as video poker businesses must comply with a sunset provision -- in this case 1999.

"If it goes to the planning commission, members may decide to include bingo in Class A nonconforming uses or not. This may be a first step in the process or the end of it," he said.

Nevertheless, the issue may be of some concern to a number of homeowners on Buena Vista and in the Barton Street area who came out against Mr. Barnes' initial rezoning request.

Although opposed to video poker casinos in their neighborhood, they also opposed the continuation of bingo because of traffic congestion and lack of sufficient parking facilities.