Springfield, MO

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A bill would change the distance requirements for serving alcohol downtown

by Karen E. Culp

City Council at its Feb. 1 meeting held a first reading on a bill to change the distance requirement for the issuing of liquor licenses in the downtown area.

The bill is the result of recommendations by the boards of the Downtown Springfield Association and the Urban Districts Alliance. The proposal, if passed, would allow licenses to be issued to downtown businesses that sell liquor within 100 feet of schools, churches and parks, rather than the 200 feet that is now required.

City Manager Tom Finnie said the requirement matches state law and is important for the continuing growth of downtown area.

"This is identical to what the state requires. The 200 feet is more appropriate for a suburban-type use. The law would also only apply to restaurants," Finnie said.

The law would only affect a portion of downtown bordered by Mill Street, Jefferson Avenue, Pershing Street and Campbell Avenue.

The ordinance would help one downtown restaurateur, David Bauer, develop his planned establishment, which would be less than 200 feet from St. Paul's United Methodist Church.

That church voted no on making an exception to allow Bauer to sell alcohol at his establishment.

One member of the church, Warren Rankin, said he was not speaking on the church's behalf, but he wanted to know "Why separate out one small area for an ordinance?"

Bob Horton, DSA president, said the main reason his board of directors supports the ordinance is because of the "density of downtown. Our buildings are so close together that something like this would make us better able to do business."

Lance T. Brown, executive director of UDA, said the ordinance needs to be updated. He also said that he had not received calls of complaint from church members.

"The calls I've gotten (since the council meeting) have all been supportive," Brown said Feb. 3.

The council also held a first reading on a bill to spend $40,000 to begin the process of creating a Community Improvement District in the center city area.

The money will come from the Special Business District's budget, and will pay for retaining a consultant to work with the SBD Advisory Board and the Urban Districts Alliance to develop a district.

The Special Business District, which is similar to the CID, is an area that can impose a tax on its property owners to collect money for improvements. The SBD's area is somewhat small, and the implementation of a CID could expand that area, as well as expanding its services. Right now, the SBD is limited by city ordinance to maintaining public parking in the downtown area.

The council passed unanimously a proposal to rezone about 70 acres at the southwest corner of Kearney Street and Mulroy Road.

The acreage will be a consolidated campus for Springfield ReManufacturing Corp., SRC will locate a training center several of its businesses of the site.

The Public Involvement Committee also announced appointments to the Special Business District Advisory Board. DSA's Horton will be a new member, along with architect Laura Derrick and architect Allen Casey, and downtown developer Sam Freeman was reappointed to the board.

Sharon Walker, who owns a business at 137 Park Central, addressed the council about the "perceived safety or unsafety of the Heer's Building," referring to another incident of glass panels falling from the building.

"If there's a perception the Heer's building is unsafe, then it affects all of us who do business downtown," Walker said.

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