by Rick Langenberg:
Woodland Park’s unintentional “no-alcohol” edict in the downtown core won’t impact future special events, but it still could restrict changes regarding new businesses and building changes.
That was part of an analysis provided by City Clerk Cindy Morse, who consulted with state officials recently regarding the government’s recent dilemma, following the approval of a permit for a Christian school downtown. At a recent meeting, the council by a 5-2 vote approved a bid by the Prayer Mountain Ministry and Creation Sciences Academy for a 15-student school, which would be held right next to Memorial Park four days a week. And as a byproduct of this school, no alcohol would be permitted within a 500-foot radius from this location at 107 W. Henrietta, right in the smack of the downtown core.
Last week, both Morse and City Manager David Buttery briefed the council on what one councilman described as “unintended consequences” regarding the school approval. Under one scenario, this action could result on a virtual ban on booze downtown and a temporary return to the prohibition era. “We can’t have liquor or alcohol in the park,” blasted Councilman Gary Brovetto. Well, not exactly, noted Morse, during last week’s council meeting. In consulting with state authorities, Morse learned that this ban would only come into play during actual school days. “The rules are suspended when school is not is session,” said Morse. As a result, city staff members believe this recent school approval shouldn’t impact most future special events. Downtown Woodland Park and Memorial Park is loaded with regular events and festivities during summer and fall, which mostly occur on the weekend.
According to representatives of Prayer Mountain Ministry, no plans are in the works for classes during the weekends. Buttery described this compromise as the initial step in dealing with a rather unusual legal situation. Due to the timing of the forthcoming school year, he asked the council to approve the conditional use permit for the Christian school and then let the staff grapple with changing the city’s current laws that outlaw havng alcohol within a certain distance of these facilities. This restriction would only affect new plans for events and future business operations, and not current establishments and upcoming festivities already approved.
Two council members, though, objected to this idea and suggested it sent a bad message for a town that is financially trying to generate more commerce through having more special events and encouraging future business expansions that may include alcohol. Plus, downtown Woodland, which now sprouts with a bevy of wine and beer tasting/hubs, has even garnered the nickname “Drinking Above the Clouds,” according to a few business observers. Councilman Eric Smith said he was glad to hear the new school approval won’t impact future special events in the park. But that said, he urged the city staff to look at changing the town’s rules so future business changes in the downtown won’t be victimized by this “no alcohol next to a school” quagmire.
Buttery agreed that marked the next step in rectifying this situation. Already at least one future business, involving the development of a new brew pub, could get impacted by this temporary prohibition.