Neighbors: Hookah Bar Still Causing Problems Near Glenwood South

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Although Raleigh police have increased their presence in a Glenwood South neighborhood, some problems with late-night noise still persist and residents blame a nearby hookah bar.

Neighbors say that customers of Sahara Hookah Cafe on the corner of West Peace Street and North Boylan Avenue have been taking over the neighborhood by littering, threatening residents and engaging in suspicious activity.

In May, neighbors took their grievances to the Law and Public Safety Committee. As a result of the meeting, Raleigh police officers have increased their weekend patrol in the area, the cafe co-owner Naser Shamma is in the process of hiring an off-duty police officer and neighbors are working on restricting parking in their neighborhood only to residents.

Raleigh Police Captain Robert Council said that there has been an increase in the number of calls from the neighborhood, but attributes that to residents feeling more comfortable asking for help from officers.

Shamma said that he is finishing the last of his paperwork to hire the off-duty officer and should have it completed by the weekend. Shamma said that he is willing to pay the $2,000 a month it will cost him for the officer, but doubts that it will help the situation in the neighborhood.

Shamma said that he has patrolled the neighborhood himself in the early-morning hours and has sent employees to pick up trash.

The RPD’s Council said that the off-duty officer is intended to be a temporary fix and that hopefully a parking restriction will end the problem completely.

Only residents and visitors with a parking pass will be allowed to park on the nearby streets, keeping patrons of Glenwood South, regardless of where they are going, from parking in the neighborhood.

Transportation Operations Manager Mike Kennon confirmed that the petition paperwork has been handed in and the signatures are being verified. The city requires that 75 percent of residents agree to the permit before putting the restriction into place.

Neighborhood activist Phil Poe still believes that the Sahara is the main cause of the problem and said that Raleigh City Council members should consider banning similar businesses from locating near residential neighborhoods.

“If you look at the root of this problem, it’s the location of this business,” he said.

Councilor and Committee Chair Mary-Ann Baldwin disagreed with Poe, adding that the cafe has exacerbated an existing problem in the area.

Devereux Street residents Damon Cheston and Catherine Winter said that they haven’t had the problems the other neighbors have encountered, likely due to their distance from the cafe, but said that it’s unfair to blame the Sahara for problems that are stemming from the rest of the Glenwood South business district.

Winter said that by not allowing businesses to locate next to residential neighborhoods, it would shut down everything on the north side of Peace Street. The proximity to Glenwood South, Winter said, is the reason why she and her husband moved from Apex.

Committee members will get an update from neighbors, the police department and Shamma in three months.

American Legion Complaints Prompt Possible Code Change

Councilors are considering making a change to the zoning code that would allow civic groups to rent out their facilities for private events.

The American Legion was cited with a zoning violation for allowing non-members to hold parties in its building on Lee Road. Being that the property is zoned Residential-10, events and gatherings at the building must be directly associated with one of the members.

Representatives with the American Legion said that they have been doing this for more than 50 years without a problem. Since the organization isn’t making a profit – a rental fee is in the form of a donation – it shouldn’t fall under the same rules.

In order to make the property comply with its intended use, the Legion could apply for a rezoning of the property, appeal its citation with the Board of Adjustment or ask councilors to change the zoning ordinance. Assistant City Manager Daniel Howe said that none of the options are quick or cheap, but are the only options allowed under city code.

Committee members agreed to work with city planning staff to consider a change to the zoning ordinance that would allow groups like the Legion rent out its facility. During that time, the Legion will appeal to the Board of Adjustment. While the appeal is in process, no citations could be issued to the Legion.

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