The Neosho City Council voted Friday to give business owners Terry and Kathy Tessmer the green light on a proposed one-way alley designation and sidewalk extension near their building at 114 N. Wood Street.
Council approved the proposal in a special session meeting Friday morning, by a 3-0 vote, with councilmen David Ruth and Steve Hart absent.
The Tessmers plan to open a coffee shop in the building.
The couple approached the Neosho Traffic Commission on Jan. 24 to request that the alley running between their building and the Neosho Beauty College, at 112 N. Wood Street, be designated as a one-way to allow for MN ,a drive-through window.
In addition, the Tessmers requested that they be allowed to bump out the sidewalk directly in front of their building, to allow for an outdoor seating area.
Currently there is one parking space in front of the building, stretching approximately nine-feet. The Tessmers plan to extend the curb by only six-feet.
There is also a parking lot across the street from the building.
Before voting on the matter, council members heard concerns from visitor Lavern Beaver, who asked what would happen if every business downtown began requesting the sidewalk bump out.
“We need parking more than we need clutter out in the street for a business,” Beaver said. “I think if you do it for one you’re going to have more than one wanting to do the same thing.”
Beaver owns the vacant corner building at 200 E. Spring Street.
Steve Hays, Neosho city attorney, recommended that someone within city staff, the Neosho Traffic Commission or the Planning and Zoning Committee, draft guidelines to be turned into a city ordinance, on which the city could base future sidewalk extension decisions.
“To a challenge as that the defense is that there is a legitimate governmental reason why you don’t [allow it],” Hays said.
Councilman Charles Collinsworth said while he understands the concern about future requests, he is excited about the prospect of a new business moving into downtown Neosho.
“I think if Neosho is to ever rebuild downtown, because the town has moved south and west and continues to make that march…I think we need to continue to encourage business like that to be down here,” Collinsworth said. “I think it would be something that would create a neat atmosphere.”
A second concern, raised by councilman Tom Workman, is what kind of liability the city would have, as the sidewalk extension would be public property.
Hays said by not deeding the sidewalk to the Tessmers, the city would have control over placing certain requirements on the sidewalk area, and if the extended curb were to someday fall in to disrepair, the city would have the right to remove it.
Richard Davidson, Neosho mayor, echoed Collinsworth’s stance, and said he would like to allow the business the opportunity to prosper.
He also noted that the Tessmers had received approval from both neighboring businesses.
“I like to err on the side of giving somebody the chance to revitalize downtown,” Davidson said. “As a business owner myself I hate the government telling me what I can and can’t do, it’s a little different here, it’s on public land, but I can see the benefits to it as well.”
The Neosho Traffic Commission, which includes city staff such as Neosho Police Chief Dave McCracken, Neosho Fire Chief Mike Eads, Neosho Public Works Director Mike Hightower, and Neosho’s Code Enforcement Officer, John Harrington, among other members, voted in January to unanimously approve the proposals and recommend the project to council.
Hightower told council members on Friday that the business owners had indicated that they plan to include drainage measures with the curb extension, as well as place a railing around the outdoor seating area.
In January, Terry Tessmer told the traffic commission that he is looking to bring a business to Neosho that will attract residents of all ages.
“I’m looking at a small coffee-shop, with wi-fi, kind of Starbucks-y like,” Tessmer said.
Tessmer said the building has been gutted and an architect has been working on designs.
The Tessmers say they plan to keep the historic features outside of the building, though they hope to give the inside of the shop a modern feel.
In addition to the coffee shop, the Tessmers also hope to offer a meeting space in the building, and include an apartment and office upstairs, with limited parking behind the building.
While the plans are still in the early stages, and the Tessmers are unsure just yet of an opening date, Tessmer said the goal is to have a soft opening in the early summer.