Committee wants strict line on licenses

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – No liquor should be sold on a permanent retail license within 300 feet of a church or school in the city – and the City Council should not be able to waive that.

The Ad Hoc Liquor License Ordinance Committee reaffirmed that Thursday on a split vote and despite some concerns about the legality of their action.

The committee voted 4-3 not to allow the City Council to waive the restriction on granting retail liquor licenses to any location within

300 feet of a church, hospital or school although state law does grant local councils and boards the right to waive that restriction.

That restriction was one reason cited by opponents of granting the Generations inter-generational center a liquor license in 2014, as that building houses the Head Start program, a day care and weekly church services.

But City Attorney Crystal Fieber, going over the revised liquor license ordinance she has developed following the committee’s recommendations, had a warning for the committee.

“State statutes now provide that that (restriction) is able to be waived by the council,” Fieber stated. “My recommendation is that you keep (the ordinance) consistent with state statutes. My opinion is that if you create a section that is different than the state statute, it is open to a challenge. It hasn’t been challenged yet and maybe I’m wrong, but (the question) hasn’t been decided.”

“The council should have that discretion down the road,” Council President Charles Hansen, a member of the committee, stated.

But several members of the committee reaffirmed their earlier vote not to give the council that authority.

“The committee voted not to allow the council that discretion,” committee member Sue Kaiser reminded her colleagues.

“That’s why this committee was formed, because the council wavered back and forth again and again,” on the proximity issue, committee member Carole O’Malley added, referring to the council’s several votes, against and then for, the Generations license in 2014. The council’s approval of the license was later vetoed by Mayor Donald Pohlman.

Hansen warned that not allowing the opportunity to waive the distance rule could cause conflicts with existing licenses or future applicants.

As an example, he cited the license which the Plymouth Flames hold to sell beer at their games at Carl Loebe Field.

Hansen pointed out that the baseball diamond is within 300 feet of Parkview Elementary School, which would make the license illegal under the proposed code with no chance for the city to waive that.

He also cited ReBar in the old Turner Hall, which is also within the proscribed distance – in this case, of St. John Lutheran School.

However, City Administrator Brian Yerges and Clerk/Treasurer Patty Huberty pointed out that a clause in the code exempts any license first issued before 1947 from the distance rule, meaning the Turner Hall location is grandfathered.

They could not say if the same is true for the Flames license at Loebe Field.

Alderman Jim Faller, a member of the ad hoc committee, moved to change the proposed ordinance to allow the council the authority to waive the distance rule.

Committee member Pat Campbell joined Faller and Hansen in voting for the motion, but Kaiser, O’Malley, Alderman Greg Hildebrand and Pohlman all voted no.

O’Malley made a motion to grant exemptions from the rule from any existing retail beer or liquor license to clear up any confusion over the license for Loebe Field, but that motion failed to receive a second.

Fieber did note that the council still will have final say on the proposed new liquor license ordinance. “The council may decide not to go along with the committee’s recommendation,” she commented.

The committee will be meeting again with Fieber to continue their review of the proposed revisions to the liquor license ordinance.

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