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|Council considers waiver on alcohol sales near churches|
A proposal to allow churches to locate near bars was presented to the Monroe City Council Tuesday so councilmen can determine if they want to amend the city code to allow it.
Currently a city zoning ordinance prohibits bars and churches from locating within 300 feet of one another.
The issue was brought before the city because Faith Tabernacle Church officials want to establish a church facility at 1905 Auburn Ave. in Monroe. This area is currently zoned B-5, which allows the sale of alcoholic beverages by businesses there.
Churches are routinely denied permits to locate near businesses which sale alcohol. If an establishment goes out of business or loses its liquor license, a church near that location would prevent any future businesses from selling alcohol there.
City attorney Nanci Summersgill suggested the city council amend the city code to allow churches to locate wherever they desire with the understanding that if a church locates in a zone that allows alcohol sales, it could eventually be located near an establishment that sells alcohol. The 300-foot rule would no longer apply in those cases, she said.
Currently, churches must ask for permission to establish facilities in any zoning area of the city.
If the council agrees to the amendment, a grandfather clause for existing churches would be included in the city code amendment so those churches would still have a 300-foot buffer between establishments that sell alcohol.
"By lifting the restriction, we say churches can locate somewhere such as DeSiard Street, and they will no longer have that 300-foot restriction, except where that restriction is in effect now," Summersgill said. "We don't want to prohibit future sales of alcoholic beverages in areas zoned to sell alcohol. We are not changing any zoning ordinance. All we will be doing is allowing churches to come into a place where there are bars. If they (churches) say they want to open next to a bar, then the zoning commission cannot bring up the 300-foot rule. If they want to locate next to a bar, fine, let them locate next to a bar"
Several city council members were uneasy with the idea, but the council agreed to introduce the matter to discuss the proposal and take action at its next regular meeting.