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Council rejects bus stop rezoning

By Martin Burkey
DAILY Staff Writer 340-2441

David Deldar lost Monday in his bid to get the Decatur City Council to rezone a 0.26-acre tract so he can continue to operate a Greyhound bus station from his Corner Express Food Mart on West Moulton Street.

Councilmen Gary Hammon and Ray Metzger voted for the rezoning request. Councilmen David Bolding and Ronny Russell voted against it. Council President Billy Jackson, who led residents against the bus stop, abstained. The 2-2-1 vote meant the request failed to win a majority.

Afterward, Deldar's attorney, Sherryl Snodgrass Caffey, said she'd see the city in court.

"They've voted to approve every other application to B-2," she said referring to the zoning classification Deldar was seeking. "Seven of the eight properties adjacent to the property were zoned B-2. This is blatant and outright discrimination (against) David Deldar."

Caffey demanded Jackson abstain because of his opposition. Jackson said he abstained because it was in the city's best interest, adding that he didn't count votes before the meeting. He said he thought the vote against rezoning would be greater in front of a major show of opposition by Northwest Decatur residents.

'Not black people'

"You have an idea on every vote, but I had no idea," he said. "Since Ray Metzger said he ran to do the will of the people, I thought he would stick with it. He will do the will of the people when it's not black people."

Metzger later denied that his vote was racially motivated.

"I feel like it's helping the black people," he said. "I was voting for what I thought was the best thing for the people, not just to put it in his area. I felt like that was where it would get the most use."

The Decatur Planning Commission supported the request. Planning Director Jim Fisher advised that the council needed to be consistent in its rezoning actions or risk opening the city to possible legal action.

But Jackson, Russell and Bolding noted that other tracts zoned B-2, one of the city's most permissive, came before the city made a major investment to revitalize the area.

"We've got to show a commitment to that neighborhood," Bolding said.

Russell said the state turned over maintenance of Moulton Street to Decatur and re-routed heavy commercial traffic to Alabama 20.

Constance Wilson with the Northwest Decatur Community Development Corp. told the council earlier that the city and federal government have spent more than $400,000 in the area to demolish the Stonegate and Cashin low-income apartments and have committed to building low-income, single-family housing.

Several residents maintained they believe the bus stop is attracting drugs and prostitution. They accused Deldar's supporters of gathering signatures for a petition from people who didn't know what they were signing.

However, Edward Bass, who said he lives two blocks from the convenience store, said he wants the bus stop to remain. He uses it three times a month to go to Birmingham and twice a month to go to Huntsville for medical reasons.

"The people fighting it don't ride the bus," he said. "If you move this bus, there will be a lot of people to suffer."

Declaring it "the hardest vote in my 10 months here," Hammon noted that seven of the eight adjacent properties were zoned B-2.

The bus fuss began soon after Deldar began operating a Greyhound stop from his convenience store in 2002.

The city initially charged Deldar with zoning violations but dropped the charges when Deldar made requested parking and handicapped-access improvements.

The council then withdrew the bus stop's business license in a meeting attended by dozens of bus stop opponents. Deldar sued the city, but a judge tossed out the suit.

Deldar next purchased a 0.26-acre lot, zoned B-2, beside his store to address residents' concerns about safety and traffic. He hoped to have his store rezoned from B-1 to B-2 to allow his bus business to continue.

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