A property owner, who first petitioned Conway City Council to allow him to reopen a convenience store on U.S. 501 at Sixth Avenue, will have to wait a little longer to get a response from the council.
Rikin Patel told council in February that gas doesn’t generate enough money, so he wants to sell beer and wine. To do that, he’ll have to build a beer cooler on the rear of the existing store and that will require a rezoning of .13-acres of the property from medium density residential to highway commercial. Patel says he also plans to add landscaping behind the store.
Conway Mayor Barbara Blain-Bellamy told the group Monday night that she’s heard from nine to 12 nearby residents, who have sharp concerns about the old convenience store reopening.
Council had earlier called for comments on the request. Zenobia Steele, who labeled herself a concerned citizen, sent along her objections to the business in writing.
She said when the gas station was open, she experienced excessive amounts of trash in her yard, loud talking and people walking at late times at night and cars speeding down Sixth Avenue, and she pointed out that someone was killed between the gas station and her home.
“These events are the reasons I would not like a business in this area. I believe this would cause increased safety concerns for our community,” she wrote.
Conway’s mayor suggested delaying the issue until council’s June 1 meeting to be held in Conway’s Public Safety building when council hopes to be there together in person and not in a virtual meeting. That way people can make their comments in person, she said.
Councilman William Goldfinch said he has heard from three people on the rezoning request, and added that Conway Police Chief Dale Long has completed some research on the issue. He agreed to defer the public hearing and first reading on the request saying he thinks that education on the subject can help allay some concerns. He agrees that it can be done easier in a public setting.
Councilman Larry White expressed some concerns about the issue saying that the request involves his neighborhood. Most of the people who live there are seniors and they don’t need another bar or wine joint, he said, adding that there are already three within several blocks.
He said people buy their beer and wine and then go to the steps of a church across the street to consume their purchases.
In February, Patel told council he already had the okay from Exxon to provide service to the business.
At that meeting, the police chief expressed concern that customers might hang around the business causing problems for nearby residents, a church and police.
The closest church is Mt. Zion F.B.H. Church that is directly across Sixth Avenue from the side of the store. Bethel AME is only blocks away.
Long said then that there were already other businesses in the area that required a great deal of police attention.
He worries about an uptick in loitering, littering, public drunkenness and drug sales.
Long said then he believes that area of town has more problems than some others because there is a lot of pedestrian traffic there. If a person walks up, buys a single beer or a 12-pack, there’s an urge to open it and start drinking right then, he said.
Patel said then that he plans to open his business from 6 a.m.-10 p.m. daily. He plans to reach out to police for help with loitering and will have security cameras.
The business owner said he doesn’t want loitering because it can also be a problem for his customers and employees.
Long pointed out that if the store becomes a problem with violence and/or people selling drugs, the city can bring a public nuisance action against it.