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|Council frees church to meet near nightclub|
Thunderous applause echoed throughout Monroe City Council chambers Tuesday as Faith Tabernacle Church members responded to council action that will allow the church to meet in its existing facility.
The city council unanimously approved a measure that will allow churches to operate within 300 feet of businesses that sell alcohol. A city ordinance currently prohibited the practice, but the city council revisited the issue in light of Faith Tabernacle's desire to congregate near several nightclubs on Auburn Avenue in Mid City Monroe.
The issue has been a topic of discussion at several city council meetings recently. City attorney Nanci Summersgill worked on a compromise agreement to please Faith Tabernacle Church and at least one nightclub, Top Gun.
The city's Planning and Zoning Commission originally denied the church's request to congregate at its Auburn Avenue location. Church members continued to use the facility to worship while the city council contemplated a compromise agreement.
The city council opposed Summersgill's first proposal to mitigate the problem because it did not include a waiver clause.
The current ordinance, which was unanimously approved by the council, will allow a "church, synagogue or other place of worship the right to waive" the 300-feet distance requirement. The waiver will be irrevocable as long as the facility is used as a place of worship.
The ordinance becomes affective in 30 days.
Columbia attorney James Mixon, who represented the church members, said the ordinance will solve two concerns in that it won't have any impact on establishments that sale alcohol, and it will now give churches more freedom to locate within the city.
"They had located a building that fit their needs, but unfortunately for them, it was located in an area traditionally zoned for alcohol sales," Mixon said. "When we look back at the original purpose (of the city's ordinance) it was to keep bars from locating next to churches, but today it has an opposite effect, and this resolves those issues."