Rick's Mart rezoning request continued

South Bend, Ind. The owner of a controversial convenience store who wants to expand will have to wait at least two more weeks before learning the project's fate.

Rick's Mart, formerly known as Munchie Mart, wants to add gas pumps and increase parking. They made a similar rezoning request last year, but withdrew their petition after it failed to gain the support of the council.

But, this time Rick's Mart managers met with residents who are against the project to find out how they could address their concerns.

As a result of those meetings, attorneys for the store say they came up with a list of several commitments they'll have to follow if the project is approved.

Among them, the store will limit its hours from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. When they came before the council last year, Rick's Mart wanted to be a 24-hour store.

The owner has also agreed not to sell any type of beer or alcohol.

As part of the $500,000 project, he'll add additional security lighting and cameras, as well as move parking from the street to behind the store.

While the LaSalle Park Neighborhood Association has spoken out against the project, they weren't at Monday night's full council meeting to make their concerns known.

Instead, several residents who live near Rick's Mart urged the council to approve the rezoning request and special exception.

I believe that we have to support the small businessmen that are already in existence because you cannot attract a big company to that neighborhood with plans," said Kathryn McCauley.

But, Council President Derek Dieter says he wants the store owner to add additional commitments to his plan before the council moves forward. He asked him to agree not to sell items such as tobacco paper, roach clips, bongs or other drug paraphernalia.

The owner agreed to work with his attorneys on adding that language to the proposal.

"If they're able to make that commitment, I'm going to be very strongly possibly voting in favor of that," Dieter said. "But, in fairness to their business, I think we need to look at that in all of South Bend, that we shouldn't just single them out."

There were also questions about what penalties Rick's Mart would face if it violated any of the commitments. The city's legal department is looking into the enforcement issue.

The council will reconsider the rezoning and special exception request at its next meeting in two weeks.

Councilman Henry Davis Jr. says he's still opposed to the idea because of the overwhelmingly negative comments he's heard from residents.

But, he says the council can't continue to turn away businesses willing to invest their money in the community. He says that's why the council and administration need to focus on coming up with a plan for the Western Avenue corridor.

"We need to engage people, employ people here locally who are a vested in the community," he said. "It's simple as that."

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