A new requirement in city code will require nearby neighbors to be notified by mail when liquor license applications are filed.
Springfield City Council voted 8-0, with member Callie Carroll absent, to require the city to notify property owners and occupants of residential dwellings within 200 feet of the location of a liquor license application. The resolution required only one reading.
Prior to the measure’s passage, it was sufficient for liquor license applicants to post signage within the commercial property’s borders, but mailed notification to neighboring owners and residents was not required.
Councilmember Monica Horton proposed the resolution and explained why she saw its necessity.
“As the ordinance or the section of the code currently stands, there is a small omission – I call it an omission – of a lack of notice to homeowners and a lack of notice to occupants,” she said.
Horton said a resident may see a sign on a property with a notice of intent to sell liquor, and that sign spells out residents’ right to protest the application within a 21-day period.
She added that owners are unlikely to live in the impacted neighborhood, as homeowner occupancy in neighborhoods is less than 42%. Tenants are therefore more likely to see a posted notification.
“It’s also likely that it may be day 20 before you find out that there’s a sign within 200 feet of your house,” she said.
At this point, residents should pull over, walk up to the sign, read it and learn the protest procedure, which involves a visit to a municipal office and neighborhood canvassing.
She added that canvassing could be futile if the resident is not the owner. Even if the canvassing were successful, she noted, it is likely the resident would not receive notification of the next steps in the city’s process.
“Some of these opportunities right now are very time-consuming gaps in communication for owners, tenants and quite frankly individuals in transitional housing, i.e. sobriety houses, that are within 200 feet of individuals selling the package liquor,” she said.
City code will continue to allow protest petitions signed by 50% of property owners to be elevated to City Council to determine whether the city will grant a liquor license. Without a protest petition, or with insufficient signatures, the license can be issued administratively without council involvement.
Asked by Councilmember Brandon Jenson if the requirement to mail notifications were reasonable and common practice, City Attorney Rhonda Lewsader – in her last meeting in her position before retirement – said it is not common practice, since the step is not currently required, and she didn’t know what difficulty it would present.
The procedure, she said, would probably require city officials to determine addresses within 200 feet of an applicant establishment and determine residents and owners, if not residing on premises, and send out written notices immediately. The same process is followed with rezoning applications, she said.
Councilmember Craig Hosmer said he supported the measure and called it a quality of place issue.
“One of the most important things we can do to preserve neighborhoods in the city of Springfield is to make sure they have some say in who becomes a neighbor,” he said. “We can look at crime statistics all over our city and we can see that places that serve alcohol, whether they’re served by the drink or packaged, create problems in neighborhoods.”
He added that neighborhood residents should be able to make decisions about where they live.
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