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Council debates how to notify neighbors of new liquor store applications

Springfield City Council voted on Nov. 6, 2023 to instruct city staff to rewrite city ordinance to make it easier for neighborhood residents to contest the granting of new liquor licenses for retail stores such as this one near downtown Springfield.
Gregory Holman/KSMU
Springfield City Council voted on Nov. 6, 2023 to instruct city staff to rewrite city ordinance to make it easier for neighborhood residents to contest the granting of new liquor licenses for retail stores such as this one near downtown Springfield.

This week, Springfield City Council debated whether to make it easier for neighborhood residents to protest new applications for liquor store licenses.

Springfield already has a process for neighborhoods to protest retail liquor store licenses that would be located within 200 feet of homes.

If 50 percent of nearby property owners sign a protest petition within 21 days, the license application must be approved or denied by City Council vote.

But for Councilwoman Monica Horton, the system is often too difficult for ordinary residents to use.

During Council debate Monday night, she said, “Some of these opportunities right now are very time-consuming gaps of 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 licenses.”

Currently, public signage by the applicant and notices in the newspaper are all that’s required to let neighbors know about a possible new liquor store. Horton wants the notification process to be more similar to the way the city handles rezonings or permits for Airbnb-type short-term rentals.

Horton’s proposal would send physical mailings out to every home within 200 feet of a proposed liquor store license, including homeowners, property owners and residents. Each mailer would also include information on how to get in touch with city government to protest the granting of a new liquor license.

The resolution before Council passed 8-to-zero on Monday night. It outlines the proposed changes and authorizes city staff to begin working on rewriting city ordinance.

Because the changes would affect city zoning code, the Planning & Zoning Commission and City Council would need to conduct public hearings before the changes could be voted into local law. That’s expected at a later date.

Gregory Holman is a KSMU reporter and editor focusing on public affairs.