Collegedale city commissioners recently voted to eliminate a stipulation that an establishment selling alcohol must be located at least 300 feet from an active church or school.
Collegedale is the only municipality out of the 11 in Hamilton County that have passed legislation allowing alcohol to do away with this state-given right to limit the proximity of such establishments to what are considered sensitive areas. The ordinance was written and brought before the commission at the request of Collegedale City Manager Ted Rogers.
In a recent Planning Commission meeting he stated that several storefront churches within city limits might eliminate commercial retailers from coming to the city since the distance requirement would prevent them from selling alcohol.
"I don't want to limit any developable land," he said after the commissioners voted. "If someone wants to start a church somewhere on Apison Pike, they should be able to do that, but I believe that a store, drugstore or restaurant should be able to live by that church and sell alcohol if they choose."
Mayor John Turner and Commissioners Debbie Baker and Katie Lamb voted in favor of the ordinance to eliminate the distance requirement. Vice Mayor Tim Johnson was absent, and Commissioner Larry Hanson opposed the ordinance on both of its readings.
"I'm uncomfortable with the idea of changing this rule," he said. "I would move that we modify the ordinances to replace the wording to make it a freestanding school, church or other place used as a place of worship."
Hanson's suggestion to modify the ordinance was met with criticism from City Attorney Sam Elliott, Rogers and other commissioners.
"This is probably legally defensible, but there is the potential for some equal protection issues," Elliott said in regards to Hanson's suggestion. "I don't like drawing distinctions like that. I'm not saying yea or nay [on what the commission should do]. I think I can defend it but I can't guarantee I can."
Rogers and Baker agreed that drawing a distinction between a freestanding church or a church within a strip mall could be problematic in the city's future.
"I have a problem with separating the two," said Baker. "It needs to be black and white."
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