Though disappointed with county commissioners' decision Tuesday to approve a liquor license for Rhinehart's Oyster Bar, Patrick McCraith said he hopes residents opposed to the location of the restaurant are cordial after it opens.
"I hope people respect them as neighbors," said McCraith, who lives near Rhinehart's proposed site on North Belair Road. "But they'll probably not frequent the place."
Opponents and supporters packed the Board of Commissioners' meeting last week to hear whether Rhinehart's owners would be granted the liquor license allowing them to build a new location in Columbia County.
The commissioners voted unanimously in favor of approving Amy and Craig Bailey's license application.
After the meeting, board Chairman Ron Cross said there was no legal basis to deny the couple's application.
"We can't pick and choose," he said. "It's unfortunate that you can't make everybody happy."
Those unhappy with the decision were residents who voiced concerns about the proposed restaurant's proximity to Bel Air Elementary and Evans High School, the establishment's image and the number of traffic accidents at the nearby intersection of North Belair and Owens roads.
Last year, the Columbia County school board did not grant a waiver from the 600-feet distance required between the proposed alcohol-serving restaurant and Bel Air Elementary School.
The Baileys entered into a contract to buy adjacent land, moving them outside the schools' distance requirement. With Tuesday's approval, the Baileys said they plan to open their new restaurant within six months.
Despite the vocal opposition, Mrs. Bailey said the couple has received support to build their restaurant, which has operated in Augusta on Washington Road for two decades. The Columbia County spot would be their second location.
"We had a lot of people around the neighborhood who said they want us here," she said during the meeting. "We make good food and we wanted to bring that out to Columbia County."
McCraith, who lives in the nearby Glennwood subdivision, argued that the county's definition for the property's zoning should not allow restaurant to be built.
The definition of a C-1, or neighborhood commercial district, states that the "district is for commercial uses of land and structures which blend smoothly into the character of adjoining residential areas, and to exclude activities which generate perceptible light or noise or attract traffic from outside the immediate neighborhood."
McCraith contended that the restaurant would not blend into the neighborhoods and would certainly attract patrons from outside the immediate area.
"What we're opposed to is the bending of the rules and regulations for the support of business over the wishes and the feelings of the citizens," he said.
Planning Director Jeff Browning told commissioners that the restaurant's use and its plans to sell alcohol were permitted under the C-1 zoning, which allows for sit-down restaurants but not fast-food restaurants.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.