A Clarksdale businessman will have to wait an additional two weeks as elected city leaders decide whether to approve a banquet hall that has been at the center of neighborhood disputes and calls to police in the past.
Darry Jenkins appeared before the board of commissioners at its meeting Monday afternoon asking that they approve a recommendation from the Clarksdale Planning Commission allowing him to open his banquet hall, Memory Lane, at 1604 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
However, commissioners were hesitant to approve the conditional-use permit for Jenkins as they cited problems in the past and even one commissioner said he was opposed to the banquet hall re-opening.
“This has been coming in front of us for eight years. We’ve been dealing with this for so long,” commissioner Bo Plunk said.
Jenkins said many of the previous problems were before he owned the property and not his responsibility.
However, Plunk said while he felt sorry for Jenkins, he felt the business had been “just a nuisance in that community.”
“I feel like nothing is going to change, even with your good intentions,” Plunk said.
During a March 12 meeting, the Clarksdale Planning Commission approved Jenkins’ request for a conditional-use permit for the property, but also attached several stipulations.
Among those were a requirement that Jenkins or his representative be present at all events, there be no alcohol, no loud noises, security be present and there would be no events running later than 10 p.m. The stipulations were first put in place in 2016, according to City Attorney Melvin Miller.
When asked by commissioner Willie Turner Jr. if he would be able to meet those standards, Jenkins said, “I will go with the letter of the law to comply with everything. I will go above and beyond to make sure that the community is safe.”
Clarksdale resident Regina Hackett, who has family that lives near the facility, said she believed the banquet hall “is a good place for events” and said she was hoping to rent the facility for a family reunion.
After questioning Jenkins about alleged alcohol use at the facility and other concerns, commissioner Ed Seals made a motion that the commissioners agree to carry over the matter until its next meeting, April 8, which would allow him time to talk with those who live near the property and get their thoughts.
Commissioners Turner and Ken Murphey agreed with Seals’ motion, while Plunk voted against.
As Jenkins was leaving the podium, Clarksdale mayor Chuck Espy told him that he had some “difficult benchmarks” to meet.
“We’ve got a lot going on and a lot at stake in Clarksdale,” the mayor said. “You may want to consider doing your business elsewhere.”
Jenkins agreed and asked if anyone wanted to buy the property. Espy suggested that he get in contact with the mayor’s office and they would pursue the matter.
In other news, commissioners:
* Was informed by Miller during closed session that a lawsuit brought by city residents Milton Gardner and Gonda El challenging the layout of city wards in Clarksdale had been dismissed in Coahoma County Circuit Court. Miller said the case was dismissed due to a lack of prosecution.
* Accepted the resignation of Clarksdale Assistant Fire Chief Chris Chicorelli, who will be retiring at the end of the month. In other personnel action taken up during the closed session, Tarra Slack was named as a permanent employee as the city’s personnel director, and they also made an offer of employment in the public works department to one individual and withdrew an offer to another person.
* Agreed to give authorization to the mayor to send a letter to the Clarksdale Municipal School District requesting permission to place Kaboom Playground equipment at J.W. Stampley Elementary School. Turner, who spearheaded the effort, said the neighborhood has been without a playground for years and that it would be good for children in that area to have a place to play.
* Agreed to set hearings to determine if demolition will proceed at the following properties in the city: 316 and 414 Pecan St., 335 Lynn Ave. and 2210 Seventh St.
* Voted unanimously to begin demolition of a property at 433 Garfield St. After a month’s consideration, the property owner agreed to have the city do the demolition work on the home damaged by fire.
* Unanimously agreed to re-appoint Sandy Stillions to another term on the Clarksdale Municipal School District board of education. He will represent Ward One.
* Agreed to purchase a new zero-turn lawnmower. This will now give the city four zero-turn lawnmowers, allowing one per ward as the city ramps up its grass-cutting efforts this year.
Each of the commissioners was asked to submit a list to the mayor’s office by 10 a.m. each Monday of the properties in their respective ward that were needing to have grass cut. The city recently agreed to hire eight individuals, giving each ward two individuals dedicated to cutting grass and doing other cleanup work.
“There’s plenty to do other than cut grass,” said Todd Jones, the city’s director of Public Works. “They’re going to stay busy.”