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14th Street pizza plans tabled

By DARREL RADFORD - dradford@thecouriertimes.com

Plans for a new carry-out pizza business were put on the backburner Monday night by the New Castle City Council.

After hearing concerns from a neighbor in the 14th / Walnut Street area where Little Caesar’s wants to move operations, council members unanimously agreed to table a public hearing. They asked the business owner, Paul Armstrong, to come back with a “plot plan” to show issues raised by John Carnes Jr. were being addressed.

Carnes’ concern was over the potential lighting, noise and trash issues a Little Caesar’s location would create for his parents, who live at 424 S. Main St., directly west of the proposed site – the former parking lot of the New Castle First Baptist Church.

Carnes said his parents had lived in the home since the late 1990s. He added that their home has a bit of historical significance, since it was built by the middle brother of the Jennings family.

Carnes also said the current Little Caesar’s site on Grand Avenue is, his opinion, “a mess” and feared the trashy appearance would impact property values in the neighborhood.

Paul Armstrong, the local Little Caesar’s owner, emphasized he wants to be a good neighbor and is willing to sit down with Carnes to ease concerns. He said problems with the current landlord have led him to search for a new location.

“We put $120,000 into the current property we’re in and the original landlord was very helpful,” Armstrong said. “Once, we even got an award for local property improvement. We kept the property in great condition but our landlord passed away and left the property to a new owner who refuses to do anything with the property. We’ve been searching for a new site for better part of three years now.”

Armstrong emphasized the new location, while offering a drive-though window, would not have a “sqawk box” where people would order. Orders would primarily be taken online for the pizzas or at the window.

“I hope to be a good neighbor. It will be my property and I will be responsible for it. New Castle is a smaller town where everybody usually knows each other. So in a town like this the last thing we want to do is make one person upset. Because if you make one person upset, chances are they know a lot of people in town and that’s not a great way to do business,” Armstrong said.

Other concerns raised by Carnes included the impact semi-truck deliveries might have on local streets, traffic and noise concerns.

While the rezoning request passed a city planning commission, the City Council has the final say in the matter. City Attorney David Copenhaver encouraged Armstrong to provide a “plot plan” for local officials in which neighbor concerns hopefully can be addressed.

“I think the plan should show the dimensions of the lot, the dimensions of the building, the location of the building on the lot, the distance on setbacks on the lot size, where your parking’s going to be, where your drive-thru is going to be, and show that all on your plot plan,” Copenhaver explained.

“I don’t think any of us are trying to disrespectfully slow down the process, because we definitely understand the issues you’re facing,” Councilman Aaron Dicken told Armstrong.  “We’re just really trying to play mediator here and make sure its beneficial for all parties involved.”

The Courier-Times will continue coverage of Monday’s city council meeting in the Wednesday paper.