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Rincon pours work into liquor ordinance
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Rincon City Council held a workshop to discuss a proposed liquor by the drink ordinance Thursday.

Council members agreed to keep the required amount of food sales in a restaurant at 55 percent of sales. Council member Ken Baxley said he thought the required number of seats should be more than the ordinance’s current 25.
Mayor Ken Lee said he did not want to hinder a small business owner from opening a business due the number of seats in an establishment.

The ordinance also requires all open area or decks to be approved by council to have service, and a five-foot barrier around the perimeter of the open area.

Council member Paul Wendelken asked about a portion of the ordinance that would require 300 feet from the sanctuary of an existing church to a restaurant that serves alcohol. He asked if it would be from building to building at the closest point in a straight line.

City Attorney Raymond Dickey said the way the ordinance is written would call for an overlay of a district where alcohol sales are allowed.

Wendelken said he did not like restricting business to the extent that having a specified district would.

“I may be in a commercially zoned lot outside the corridor. I don’t think that’s fair,” he said.

Dickey said he thought the idea was to have a separation from churches and prohibited distance requirements.

The newly-annexed Heritage tract will have a commercial district, Baxley said he thought restaurants that serve alcohol should be allowed to serve anywhere that is zoned commercial.

The members discussed churches, which can be located in commercial zoning or residential zoning with the council’s approval. Wendelken asked what the requirement would be if a restaurant and church were located in the same strip mall.

Dickey said the requirement is from the sanctuary and defined as a stand-alone church. The members changed the wording to place of business or space.

The members debated a clause that would only let churches protest the placement of a restaurant if they are in existence in the city limits prior to May 1.

Dickey said the purpose of the section was that if a church was established in a location after May 1, and a restaurant wanted to locate near the church the church would not be allowed to object because the church was aware of the zoning at the time it established itself at the location.

Council member Scott Morgan asked about a church that existed prior to the date but was annexed in after that date.

Morgan said he thought if a church existed previously should have some recourse even if they were not within the city limits prior to the date.

“You have to have some way to notify them so they have some recourse,” he said.

Dickey said that church would not be able to object.

City Manager Donald Toms explained the clause existed to keep a church from locating in the commercial district; the only place a restaurant can locate, and then prevent a restaurant from locating in that area.

“You’ve got Lowe’s and we’ve got a couple areas next to it,” Toms said as he drew the example on a dry erase board.

“There are only so many places a Longhorn can go that is where the slate is. If a church decides to locate right here inside the business district, any restaurant would be prevented.”

Wendelken said, “What I’m hearing is that the churches that are already there can make an objection; afterwards, they can’t. I don’t know that I necessarily have a problem with that because both are coming into a commercial district.”

Wendelken said to put 300 feet in perspective, a Rincon city block is 400 feet.

“That’s a long way away,” he said. “They could control blocks.”

Dickey recommended keeping a distance requirement unless council grants a variance to allow an establishment that sells alcohol, a restaurant or a convenient store that sells beer and wine.

Morgan said from the area from the viaduct to the Curiosity Shoppe would not be able to have any restaurants that serve alcohol.

The members did not come to a final decision on the matter at the workshop.