In a split vote, the Garden City Commission altered and amended a local ordinance that would align local regulations with state statutes regarding the allowable distance between places of worship and businesses that sell liquor.
Commissioners voted in favor of the amendment in a 3-2 vote, with Mayor Dan Fankhauser and Commissioners Roy Cessna and Shannon Dick voting in favor and Commissioners Lindsay Byrnes and Troy Unruh voting against.
The city’s original ordinance prohibited new businesses that sell alcohol to be constructed within 200 feet of the property line of any school, church or library. The change takes advantage of an opinion from the Office of the Kansas Attorney General that differentiates the law for churches, drawing the 200 feet distance not from the church’s property line but from the “closest points between the church building and the building that would house the retail liquor store.”
The city sought the change because of the upcoming construction of the Sports of the World complex, funded by the STAR Bond. Commissioners said last month that the site for the complex, located directly behind Old Chicago and Parrot Cove Indoor Water Park, would come in conflict with the original local ordinance since the planned location of its restaurant, which intends to sell alcohol, is within 200 feet of property lines of two churches on Shulman Avenue.
Changing the ordinance to increase that allowable distance avoids the problem for the complex developers.
“It stands to reason that …. all of (school or college) outdoor space is intended for use, whereas churches can have large tracts of land that serve other purposes,” said City Manager Matt Allen.
City staff reached out to several churches for feedback on the change, most of which opted against it, Allen said, though several had fewer issues with restaurants that serve alcohol than liquor stores or bars. The ordinance does not distinguish between restaurants and liquor stores or bars.
Pastor Tim Fields of the Church of the Nazarene said that, taking into account his church’s community outreach programs, including feeding hundreds of students on their campus each week, that the amended ordinance would do a disservice to the church and the children it serves. Land near the church is for sale, he said, so the change could directly impact it. He also said he would have more concerns with a liquor store or bar than a restaurant.
“Any reduction, if you’re going to go from building to building, to me, would pose a greater risk...” Fields said.
Unruh noted that some churches may have future development plans for their land that may make the property line distinction more appropriate. Byrnes said the commission should be attentive to the churches' concerns.
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