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Cedaredge reduces alcohol buffer zone around school

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Photo by Hank Lohmeyer The Cedaredge Town Board adopted an ordinance that opens the way for a popular restaurant across the road from Cedaredge Elementary School to apply for a hotel/restaurant liquor license. The ordinance decreases the required distance

On a rare split vote, 5-2 with trustees Dayton Myers and Patti Michael dissenting, the Cedaredge Town Board on May 19 adopted an ordinance that allows sales of alcohol to take place within 60 feet of schools. The previous limit was 500 feet.

The immediate effect will be to clear the path for a popular cafe across the road from Cedaredge Elementary School to apply for a hotel/restaurant liquor license to allow it to serve alcohol to customers. The change would apply to other buildings within 60 feet of the school property.

Parents of children who attend the school were not involved in the trustees' discussion. Ordinance 2016-04 was added to the regular meeting agenda at the last minute without any prior public discussion. Town staff had been researching the issue prior to both the May 19 trustee meeting and the May 12 work session, the DCI was told.

The mayor is responsible for setting meeting agendas which are then adopted by the town board with or without changes. Mayor Gene Welch told the DCI "they asked me" (referring to town staff) to place Ordinance 2016-04 on the May 19 regular meeting agenda. He explained that he didn't know why the ordinance hadn't been on the May 12 work session agenda.

Trustees took up discussion of Ordinance 2016-04 at the end of their regular May 19 meeting and unexpectedly acted on it at that time. There is no requirement the town provide advance notice to the public about ordinances other than the minimum requirement of posting an agenda 24 hours in advance of the meeting. Cedaredge resident Gerry Mendralla pointed out to town officials that even their minimum posting notice was flawed: that is because the board-approved agenda failed to indicate that action might be taken on the ordinance, something which violates a protocol that is the established procedure for town board meetings and which left parents completely clueless of the pending action.

Although not required, the town staff did reach out to school administration about the pending ordinance. Town administrator Katie Sickles told trustees there were no objections to the pending change from school officials.

District School Superintendant Caryn Gibson was contacted by the DCI following the Cedaredge trustees' action. She expressed surprise learning of it and said she would research it.

Displaying some discomfort with the ordinance, trustee Bob Michael at first abstained from the town board vote; but, after it was stated that abstaining is considered "a no vote" he cast a "yes" vote instead. Michael and his wife, Patti, who is also a town trustee, own Mesa Liquors located on South Grand Mesa Drive more than a half mile from Cedaredge Elementary School. Their personal business is not subject of the new ordinance and is not directly impacted by it.

Voting "yes" in addition to Bob Michael were trustees Larry Smith, Al Smith, Ray Hanson, and Mayor Gene Welch.

The ordinance is set to take effect in 30 days after which time application for a license to sell liquor under its provisions may be made.

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