Rock Hill city officials could have been more forthright about their motives -- all their motives -- for forging ahead on new jaywalking rules for the central downtown area. Nonetheless, helping a restaurateur get a liquor license is a good motive.
That wasn't the reason City Council members stressed when they passed a new law requiring pedestrians to cross Main Street only at marked intersections. Instead, they cited safety concerns.
While jaywalking is not a major safety problem at the moment, and while jaywalkers might be in more danger on other busier streets throughout the city, downtown jaywalking might pose a problem in the future. As downtown begins to attract more people to eat, shop and attend festivals, jaywalking could become more prevalent and pedestrians could be at greater risk.
But the city had another reason for passing the ordinance: It could help Hall Dozier get a liquor license for the restaurant he hopes to open on the first floor of the newly renovated Professional Center. Dozier said he wouldn't open a high-end eatery without a license to sell mixed drinks.
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But Dozier has run into a roadblock with state regulations. State law says that alcohol other than beer and wine cannot be served within 300 feet of a house of worship. Dozier's restaurant, which would be located at the corner of Main and Caldwell streets, is, technically, within 300 feet of Freedom Temple Ministries, a church two doors down.
But under the new law, pedestrians would be required to use a crosswalk at one end of Caldwell Street, which would increase the walking distance between the two buildings. The added distance would put the restaurant just beyond 300 feet from the church.
Herb Crump, pastor of Freedom Temple, said he has no objection to alcohol being sold at the new restaurant. But he is uncomfortable with how the city handled the process, saying no one from the city spoke with him about it.
The motive of helping Dozier acquire a liquor license was openly discussed by members of the Main Streets of Old Town Association, which serves as an advisory group to the city. The association pitched the new jaywalking rules as a way to help the new restaurant and other potential downtown prospects.
We wish that had come up during the City Council's consideration of the new ordinance. If Dozier's dilemma made passage of the new rules more urgent, then that should have been discussed openly by council members.
That said, we think the city has a legitimate interest in encouraging new business downtown. Plans for this new restaurant could fall through if Dozier can't get a license to serve liquor, which often can be crucial to a restaurant's survival.
If the city can help Dozier surmount that regulatory hurdle with new jaywalking rules -- and with the blessing of Freedom Temple -- then the council was justified in passing the ordinance. We just wish city officials had been frank about their motives from the start.
Rock Hill city officials could have been more open and aboveboard about motives.
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