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Disquiet Over Amphitheatres

Neighbors had hoped code changes would put the kibosh on neighboring amphitheatre

By Amy Smith, Fri., Feb. 1, 2013

A rendering of Promiseland's planned amphitheatre
A rendering of Promiseland's planned amphitheatre
Illustration courtesy of Good Fulton & Farrell Architects

A proposed city code amendment that would impose requirements on new amphitheatres in all zoning districts does not follow the intent of a resolution City Council passed last year. At least that's the opinion of a group of Oak Hill-area residents suing the city for its administrative approval of a Promiseland West Church site plan that includes the construction of a 1,000-seat-plus amphitheatre on its Dream City campus. The site is adjacent to residential neighborhoods.

The administrative approval of the amphitheatre occurred in 2008, but residents and many city staffers were unaware of that approval until 2011, just as the development battle was coming to a head.

Today (Jan. 31), the City Council is set to hold a hearing and possibly take action on the proposed code changes that the Planning Commission passed, with additional recommendations, in a 5-3 vote on Jan. 22.

At that meeting, Robert Kleeman, a resident of one of the neighborhood groups suing the city, took issue with the staff-written proposal that would designate amphitheatres as "conditional structures" in all zoning districts, requiring applicants to go through the Planning Commission instead of obtaining approval administratively. Kleeman reminded the commission that the Council's original resolution specifically designated amphitheatres as a "conditional use" as opposed to a "structure." He said, "An empty amphitheatre doesn't have an impact – it's the use."

Before moving the item to Council, the commission majority made some changes, including the removal of staff's recommended 100-person capacity threshold.

Promiseland neighbors had hoped the code amendments would also apply to the church's yet-to-be-constructed amphitheatre, but city Planning Manager Jerry Rusthoven said the church is grandfathered and wouldn't be required to go through the approval process again. "Right now, [Promiseland] is a permitted amphitheatre and this ordinance would not affect that," he said. If Council approves the proposal from staff, residents' best chances of recourse may rest with the courts.

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