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Cedaredge will take second look at alcohol ordinance

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The Cedaredge Town Board is scheduled to take a second look at the alcohol near school ordinance (2016-04) it adopted on May 19.

Strong public interest along with opposition to Ordinance 2016-04 since the DCI first reported it on May 25 have given trustees second thoughts. The town board will consider a measure to rescind the ordinance at its meeting, Thursday, June 16, beginning at 7 p.m.

The ordinance was adopted to allow businesses, in this case the Cedaredge Creekside Café, to apply for a hotel/restaurant liquor license and serve alcohol to customers 60 feet from Cedaredge Elementary School. The previous town distance requirement was 500 feet as stated in the Colorado Liquor Code.

Ordinance 2016-14 was approved unexpectedly on May 19 with no prior public discussion. Also surprised by the town board's action was the District 50J Board of Education. Prior to adopting the measure, Cedaredge trustees were told that school officials had been notified of the ordinance and had expressed no objections. When the DCI later contacted school superintendant Caryn Gibson, she expressed surprise learning of Ordinance 2016-04. The Board of Education then adopted a resolution opposing the town's ordinance. (See related story.)

Nevertheless, judging from comments during a town board work session last week, nothing less than a large outpouring of public opposition at the June 16 discussion will change trustee minds about Ordinance 2016-04.

Mayor Gene Welch called the Colorado Liquor Code 500-foot distance requirement "a little archaic," but gave no reason why.

Trustee Al Smith dismissed the Delta County Board of Education's opposition as "non persuasive."

Trustee Bob Michael, who voted for Ordinance 2016-04, said "sufficient information" was lacking, and that a [full] public hearing process would "find more opponents." Although the public, school officials and parents were left in the dark about Ordinance 2016-04 until the last day of school, Michael noted, "We've got a touchy situation to make everyone happy and might not be able to do so."

Sitting between two trustees who voted against the ordinance, and with the Board of Education's opposing resolution at hand, trustee Ray Hanson said, "I'm surprised there aren't more opponents here."

Owners of the Creekside Café are expected to organize support for Ordinance 2016-04 at Thursday night's meeting. Town Administrator Katie Sickles advised them at last week's work session to have their friends and supporters at the meeting by 7 p.m.

Under its home rule charter, the Town of Cedaredge is only required to post meeting notice and agenda 24 hours before a meeting. It also provides that ordinances such as this can be read and adopted with a single reading, unlike the more traditional process of first and second reading which provides more time for open discussion of the decision process.

As a home rule town, Cedaredge has more authority than the state over local concerns, such as zoning. It does not have added authority over matters deemed of "statewide authority," which includes the state's liquor code. However, the liquor code specifically allows municipalities (either home rule or statutory) to eliminate or modify the 500-foot restriction.

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