By Alyssa Schnugg
The Oxford Planning Commission recently denied a request from the owner of Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux to build an outdoor dining area onto its location in the University Shopping Center.
Since it was determined there was an existing 14-parking space deficit already in the shopping center, the businesses had to apply for a variance from parking requirements in the city’s Land Development Code, which was presented to the Commission Monday evening during its regular meeting.
The applicant, Jeff St. Romain, said the outdoor seating will “activate a previously unsightly and underutilized piece of property” facing the prominent Bramlett Boulevard, according to the planning staff’s report to the Commission.
The proposed patio area would have provided 38 additional seats to the restaurant, which required removing six parking spots.
While the city has encouraged outdoor dining options due to the pandemic, planning staff did not recommend the Commission approve the variance due to a lack of parking.
Chris Watson, an urban planner spoke on behalf of Brent and Laura Smith, the owners of Chaney’s Pharmacy, at the meeting, expressing concerns about the impacts of more people and fewer parking spaces. Chaney’s has hired security recently to secure their parking lot, which is owned by the Smiths and not a part of the shopping center’s parking lot.
“There’s no reason to grant a variance that creates a higher demand of parking because there is a already shortage of parking,” Watson said.
City planning staff recently learned that approximately 40 employees work a typical Walk-On’s shift and the restaurant is only required to have 42 spaces.
Ross Boatright also spoke against the variance on behalf of his daughter who owns a beauty salon in the shopping center.
“They (Walk On’s) have taken over all the parking,” he said. “She has a lot of elderly people and they cannot park all the way down by the bank or the UPS store and walk up there. They circle the parking lot for 15-20 minutes.”
The commission voted unanimously to deny the variance request.