TERRE HAUTE —
After about an hour of debate, the Terre Haute City Council voted Thursday to deny a rezoning request from a local restaurant, a move that could close the business and cost 10 people their jobs.
The council vote was 4-to-4 with one council member, Don Morris, D-at large, absent.
Five votes were needed to approve the rezoning requested by Tippecanoe Place, a restaurant at 21st and Tippecanoe streets on Terre Haute’s near northeast side.
Speaking immediately after the vote, Curt Phillips, owner of the restaurant and banquet center, said he has no choice now but to close his business, putting 10 people out of work.
“I’ve put a lot of money in that business, made improvements to it,” Phillips said leaving City Hall, where the vote took place during the council’s regular monthly meeting. “The neighborhood that we’re in is low income, working class. I put an establishment in there that beautified it and made it look a whole lot better and they still voted me down,” he said.
“I’m not going to continue,” Phillips added. “I’m shutting it down.”
Officials from the Terre Haute Police Department have spoken this month to the council about Tippecanoe Place, saying large parties, often involving hundreds of patrons, create hazards for the public and law enforcement officers.
Marc Eldred, chief of operations for the THPD, told the council Thursday night that last weekend police were called to the area of the Tippecanoe Place in response to a car blocking access to a residential driveway. There were 530 people inside the building, Eldred said, noting that the owner of the car was not located and the vehicle was towed.
Later that night, a fight was reported in another part of town, on South 14th Street, Eldred said. That fight involved guests at a party from Tippecanoe Place, he said. Reports indicated there may have been shots fired in that fight, Eldred said.
Big events at Tippecanoe Place create a “serious threat” to the public and police, Eldred said. “We believe people are going to get hurt.”
In response, representatives of Tippecanoe Place said they have significant security in place and are not responsible for fights or actions that happen after the business is closed at other locations. An ISU student spoke to the council, saying she believed the fight on South 14th might have involved people from other parties also taking place that night.
Councilman Norm Loudermilk, council president, said his objection was that Phillips had continued to operate his business despite knowing he was out of compliance with proper zoning. His business is zoned R-3, which was appropriate for a former American Legion, but not a for-profit restaurant.
“He has chosen to have events rather than comply with the law,” Loudermilk said.
Those voting in favor of allowing the zoning change, which would have kept the Tippecanoe Place open, were council members Bob All, R-2nd, George Azar, D-at large, Jim Chalos, D-at large and Todd Nation, D-4th. Those voting against the rezoning were Loudermilk, Amy Auler, D-1st, Neil Garrison, D-5th and John Mullican, D-6th.
n The council also learned that the Bennett administration has moved $1.9 million from the Economic Development Income Tax fund into the city’s “rainy day fund.” The move didn’t require council approval because it was correcting an “error” made six years ago when money was transferred from the rainy day fund to the EDIT fund on a long-term basis, contrary to state rules at the time, said Leslie Ellis, city controller.
Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or email@example.com