Courtesy Jonathan Copsey / Appen Newspapers
January 18, 2010 MILTON – Sometimes the status quo is just fine. That's what Milton's council decided at a workshop session last Monday when discussing whether to change the restrictions on the distance of alcohol sales from a school.
The issue was raised during December's consideration of an alcohol license for Sip Wine Tapas restaurant, in Crabapple. According to state law, any business trying to sell alcohol must be a set distance from a church or school.
However, when measuring the distance from Sip Wine to Crabapple Crossing Elementary School, the restaurant and the city had differing methods – the city measured by the shortest distance; Sip Wine measured along the impervious surfaces (i.e. roads) to the entrance of the school. The problem is they were both right.
"We believed the school grounds were closer than their surveyor did," said City Attorney Ken Jarrard. "We decided that, in the absence of any language in our code that made it absolutely clear, we would yield to their surveyor in this situation."
Milton code follows exactly the state code for dealing with such issues. According to Jarrard, it was perfectly within the council's power to change the code if they wished it.
As Mayor Joe Lockwood said, a more restrictive code would only hinder Milton businesses.
"We've got such a a small commercial base that I would be for keeping within the state code," Lockwood said.
Milton has typically interpreted "impervious surfaces" as roads and sidewalks as well as grass and the right of way; anything on which people will travel. However, now there is precedent within the city that only roads and sidewalks are the standard.
Under the new interpretation, a school and a bar could theoretically be back to back and, instead of measuring the shortest distance, the city would have to measure from front door to front door following the nearby roads.
"[The state law] makes no sense but it is a formula," said Jarrard.
Along similar lines, the council debated whether a daycare counts as a school and therefore be included in the alcohol restrictions.
"A daycare's primary function is not to educate. It is to be a caretaker. A school's primary role is to educate," Jarrard said.
This issue was raised last month when the city was considering an alcohol application for a store that was near The Goddard School.
While technically a daycare, Goddard portrays itself as a teaching facility. This distinction led city staff to decide it was in fact a school a daycare.
The council agreed that daycares are not schools, and no change will have to be made to the city code.