Alpharetta is one City Council vote away from having its alcohol sales distance requirements cut by 250 feet in the downtown district. Fears that downtown churches would be affected were diminished when it was explained that they are outside of the district, so the 300 feet requirement still applies to them.
Assistant City Administrator James Drinkard showed on a map that no matter which direction you take out the front door of the First Baptist Church, the closest of the three downtown churches to the City Center site, 300 feet is reached well before reaching the retail area of the site. It would seem that with City Center just across the street from the church, it would be much closer than that. However, the city measures as the pedestrian walks, including using designated crosswalks. And the closest parts of City Center are currently designated for park space.
"What we are looking at does not affect any of our current churches based on ... what we have in place today," said Councilman D.C. Aiken.
"Effectively adoption of this amendment as proposed would not impact that church, which is the closest to that site and the closest to the properties on the west side of Hwy. 9," he said.
Drinkard said River Academy could be affected, but Aiken pointed out the school facility already has been well within that 300 foot measure before this was proposed, so that isn't a change, either.
Donald Mitchell, a long-time supporter of downtown Alpharetta, liked the ordinance amendment.
"I'd like to say I think this is a great ordinance. It really addresses the fact that most of our zoning in Alpharetta was for large suburban lots," he said.
Discussions with other businesses and real estate agents showed that this has been a problem, with property owners not always willing to rent out to restaurants.
Mayor David Belle Isle said the true purpose of the amendment was to handle situations within the downtown district, particularly City Center. Storefront churches or schools on upper stories of anticipated commercial buildings could eliminate restaurants if the 300-foot limit was required.
Richard Debban, a downtown Alpharetta architect, reminded City Council about a recent ordinance change that allows residents who are of age to carry an open container of alcohol in the downtown district. He said several evnts outside downtown have taken advantage of it, such as the Summer Brew Moon Fest. Churches won't be impacted, he said.
"I really personally don't think that they are going to be impacted by it and I thin its' going to be an asset downtown.
The ordinance amendment will need to pass a second reading before it becomes law.