City considering loosening nightclub zoning rules

Like the notion of dinner and a dance, maybe having a drink while Newport News' next Ella Fitzgerald does her stuff?

At the moment, the city's zoning code calls nightclubs an adult use, which means they're subject to a series of restrictions about where they can be — basically that the buildings that house "adult uses" businesses have to be a set number of feet away from schools, churches, parks, playgrounds, homes and so forth.

That can be a challenge for restaurant owners in strip malls (or other large structures) who would like to have live bands, or standup comics, or singers or a dance floor more than twice a month for patrons who want to enjoy themselves after 11 p.m. since the relevant measuring point is from the mall's boundary, not the business itself.

By swapping the word "unit" for the word "structure" in the relevant part of the zoning code, the city hopes to make it a bit easier for restaurateurs to offer nighttime entertainment. They'd still be required to get a conditional use permit — jargon for saying the Planning Commission and the City Council would still have to sign off before a nightclub could open in most of the city. Nightclubs are allowed in City Center at Oyster Point, and the Planning Commission is also considering whether to allow them by right in downtown Newport News, to revive interest in staying in that part of the city after the end of the working day.

The commission will consider the idea at its Oct. 5 meeting, which will be held at 4 p.m. in the City Council chamber at City Hall.

City Center ideas

The Planning Commission also wants to tweak its regulations for entertainment in City Center, where new owners and city officials hope to woo more such businesses. So far, the original plans for high-end retailing have been disappointing.

Here, one tweak is to add a general category called "amusement establishments" to the list of businesses allowed to operate in City Center. Another is to remove a requirement that billiard parlors and bowling alleys be attached to a hotel or restaurant: they could be standalone businesses, if the commission and the City Council agree.

Finally, the new regulations would allow a skating rink.

The commission will consider the idea, too, at its Oct. 5 meeting, which will be held at 4 p.m. in the City Council chamber at City Hall.

Safety projects

The City Council has approved spending $1.8 million on six different projects meant to make the city's streets safer for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists.

The work includes:

•$565,500 worth of new pedestrian signals on traffic lights, sidewalk ramps and signs warning drivers that there are pedestrians around, to be installed across the city.

•Better streetlights on Menchville Road and the Salters Creek area, a $140,000 effort.

•$300,500 worth of traffic-calming measures, sidewalks, playgrounds, trees, greenways, bike paths and handicap accessibility, city wide.

•New traffic signals at the Rock Landing Drive and Omni Way intersection and at the Jefferson Avenue and Pavilion Place intersection, a $209,000 project.

•Improvements at the Warwick Boulevard — Yorktown Road intersection, adjacent to the CSX railroad crossing, a $200,000 project.

New guardrails, drainage work and rain gardens on J. Clyde Morris Boulevard near Riverside Regional Medical Center; $400,000 will go for the design more on this project.

City approves CHKD health center plan

The City Council gave its nod to Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters' proposal to build a health care center at the corner of City Center Boulevard and Jefferson Avenue, approving zoning change to clear the way for the project.

The hospital's conceptual drawings and plans show two medical office buildings, including an urgent care facility, on a nearly 15-acre parcel.

The council also approved a permit allowing Breakout Adventure Games to run an appointment-only amusement arcade at the DW Center (the former Denbigh-Warwick Shopping Center), at 14346 Warwick Blvd.

Anti-bullying event

The Mayor's Initiative to End Bullying holds its fourth annual Parents Against Bullying 1000 Youth March on Sunday, Oct. 9, from 2 to 5 p.m. at Todd Stadium. Marching bands, hip hop artists, mimes, food trucks and ... wait for it ... free flu shots will be available.

Ress can be reached by phone at 757-247-4535.

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