Altamont threatens penalizing Whistle Stop over fence

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  • Mark Workman
    American basketball player

Jan. 13—ALTAMONT — Altamont officials say the owner of the Whistle Stop Saloon has not erected the fences he promised when they allowed him to construct a "hoop" building in his parking lot. They threatened this week to penalize him if he doesn't comply.

Altamont City Attorney Tracy Willenborg will send a formal letter to owner Mark Workman outlining the violations, according to Altamont City Clerk and Treasurer Sarah Stephen. The city requires liquor establishments that offer outside seating to have a six-foot fence equipped with an exit-only gate.

The city's options include revoking or temporarily suspending the tavern's liquor license, or imposing a fine not to exceed $10,000.

Commissioners Michael Walker, Tayler Polk and Dan Milleville and Mayor Jason Rippetoe voted for the enforcement during a meeting this week, while Commissioner Todd Slingerland dissented.

Back in April, council members considered Workman's request to construct the hoop building in the parking lot between the Whistle Stop Saloon and Luke's Bar and Grill. During that meeting, Rippetoe asked Workman how he was going to handle the fence requirement that would run along Adams Avenue on one side of the new hoop building.

"What is this condition of adding a fence along the north lot line? What type of fence?" Rippetoe asked Workman.

Workman said he was looking at fences that would serve his purpose. He said he likes the one behind Gopher's Grill of Effingham and the structure is like one being used by Pinky's at Lake Sara. The fencing behind Gopher's Grill in downtown Effingham is solid white and tall fencing.

"I want to put a nice-looking fence up and make sure it's sturdy," Workman said. "I would like to have a gate where I can open, close it or lock it."

Rippetoe asked Workman how high the fence would be.

"I want it high enough to where the air is flowing, probably around six foot," Workman said at the April meeting.

During its May meeting, the council decided to allow the project with the condition that Workman install a fence. He took down a fence in the same area when he repaved his parking lot and planned a fence with a gate for entry and exit.

"I think there should be a gate there for an emergency exit," Rippetoe said. "I think for emergency purposes being able to get people out is important."

Commissioner Walker made it a condition of approval to have a six-foot fence along Adams Street, in front of the new hoop building.

During Monday's meeting, Commissioner Polk was very passionate about the fact that the fence was never installed.

"What is your plan moving forward, now that obviously you are out of compliance?" Polk asked Workman.

Workman said he'd like to use large stones he found at a rock quarry to construct a boundary fence.

Walker stressed that the fence needed an egress gate or exit-only door for use as an exit in case of an emergency.

"Basically, it's an emergency exit only and not an in-and-out," Walker told Workman. "The door would have one-way handles that would allow people to exit through it. You can't from the outside turn a knob and open it up, only from the inside."

"I would like to make it wheelchair accessible in there for the use of my customers," Workman said. "If you put a gate there, you have a foot to a foot-and-a-half drop down to the sidewalk. That could cause a hazard if everyone tried to get out of the gate in an emergency. Why would you not want the gate to be an entrance?"

Slingerland said the original agreement was that the gate would only be to exit the property.

"We talked about both the north and south blockaded so people just wouldn't go in and out," Slingerland said. "That is the agreement you signed off before you put this building up."

"The fence was a big thing we spent a long time talking about it and I'm kind of disappointed that hasn't been done yet," Walker said.

"Basically, what we are trying to do is make sure people don't jump over the fence, not only to protect your business, but also to let you know everyone that is in there is authorized to be in there," said Slingerland, referring to Workman's suggestion of placing large stones instead of fencing.

Rippetoe told council members if the fence was to be made of rock, then the council would have to go back and change the municipal code. He said it would be up to council members whether or not they wanted to revisit the ordinance.

Rippetoe, who also serves as the city's Liquor Commissioner, asked Workman what he wanted to do.

"So, are you asking for the gate to be open both ways?" he asked Workman.

"I would like to be able to use the gate just like the front door of the building," Workman replied.

Council members did not comment on whether or not they wanted to revisit the ordinances to make changes.

Meanwhile, the council shot down a proposal to increase the maximum sign footage on the west and south side of the Whistle Stop, acting upon a recommendation from the zoning board.

Officials say Workman added new signage to the building that is over the maximum sign footage allowed under the city ordinance.

"My recommendation would be if you make any structural changes like that, or add signs, just ask," Walker told Workman.

"I wish I would have, but the company came to me with the signs and the last thing on my mind was thinking I would have to have permission to put these signs on (the building)," Workman said.

Walker told Workman he was concerned the signage he is now displaying was promoting the company making the alcohol and not the Whistle Stop.

Workman then asked the council if they could change the ordinance to increase the maximum sign footage allowed.

"I think these are very nice signs," Workman said. "As far as I know in this area, only three businesses got them. I thought I was pretty lucky. They could have put the signs in the metro (St. Louis) area or anywhere they want, but brought them here to Altamont."

In another matter, council members approved a variance to the maximum footage of signage on the north end of the property that would be 8 1/2-by-12 feet, featuring the Whistle Stop Saloon logo onto the upper portion of the recently constructed hoop building. The zoning board approved the north-end signage variance unanimously.

But council members did not approve a variance for a billboard on the south side of the Whistle Stop, at the recommendation of the zoning board.

Charles Mills can be reached at charles.mills@effinghamdailynews.com or by phone at 217-347-7151 ext. 126.

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