On a night where a newly-elected Mexico City Council member was to be congratulated, a hotly-contested public hearing instead dominated the agenda at Monday evening’s City Council meeting.
A much livelier and more controversial session than usual took place at Mexico’s City Hall, featuring both first-time members sworn into office and passionate speeches from the community.
The most highly-discussed event on the agenda involved the motion to approve or deny an additional use permit for the construction of commercial storage units at 913 E. Holt St. in Mexico to be given to Jet Up, LLC.
The property, which had previously been an abandoned and deteriorating house for several years, was purchased by Jet Up co-owners Jordan and Trenton Vaughn in January. They successfully managed to have the city of Mexico demolish the house, but needed Monday’s meeting to complete their plan of adding storage units to the land.
Their plan, however, ran into several roadblocks: Mexico’s Planning and Zoning Commission recommended to the council to deny construction of the storage units, and neighboring homeowners say the new business would intrude on their surrounding area.
In an attempt to address the concerns of both the council and citizens, Jordan Vaughn spoke on the podium, remarking that the area surrounding Holt Street already contained multiple businesses, such as Sonic and Budget Inn. In addition, Vaughn said the construction would feature labor from fellow Mexico businesses. The Vaughns grew up in Mexico and are involved in the community.
“We plan to start out with anywhere from seven to 10 units, with plans to expand in the future,” she said in explaining Jet Up’s ideas for what to do with the property. “We have heard concerns that community members believe that (our business) intrudes on their area…(but) there are multiple other businesses in the surrounding area that face little to no criticism.”
Vickie Pasley, who owns a nearby home, spoke against proposal, remarking that she was “somewhere between frustrated and furious."
“There seems to be an attitude among (Jet Up) that in some towns, anything goes. Not in Mexico,” Pasley said. “To say that you can take a picture of your property and say it is a typical day on Holt is insulting. These people don’t know who we are … how can we trust them to build in this area?”
When the council finally came to vote, it was the citizens who got their way. The council voted 5-0 in favor of the Planning and Zoning Commission’s recommendation to deny the additional use permit, ensuring that the concerns of Holt Street residents would not come to life.
Before the controversy in the council room, there were first the elections and re-elections of several members as a result of last week’s Audrain County general election.
Most notably, former Mexico Public School Board member Vicki Briggs was elected to the Mexico City Council for the first time, replacing former member Ron Loesch. With Dr. Ayanna Shivers also on the board, Mexico now has two female members on their council simultaneously for the first time.
Mexico Mayor Chris Miller also was sworn into a three-year office term after being re-elected, a year after being sworn in for the first time. Council member Steve Nichols was also elected Chairman Pro Tem of the board to a one-year term by the council, as previous chair Williams is not allowed to serve consecutive terms.
In terms of other business conducted on the night, an additional use permit was granted unanimously by the council for James and Darlene Spencer of Mexico to continue operating their bed and breakfast business at 317 E. Love St.
Known as Darlene’s Guest Cottage, the Spencer estate has held host to the bed and breakfast since its opening in 1973, and has been a staple for Mexico tourists and visitors ever since.
The session ended with the council unanimously authorizing city manager Bruce Slagle to sign a health care services agreement with SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital - Audrain. Specifically, the agreement grants an expansion of the hospital’s 340B program, which requires drug manufacturers to provide outpatient drugs to eligible health care organizations at significantly reduced prices.
Council comments followed at the end of the session, in which all members congratulated and wished good luck to Briggs for her future on the council.
The next meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Apr. 23.