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Alcohol ordinance to change in RH
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As a result of discussion at Tuesday’s Richmond Hill City Council meeting, the city law pertaining to establishments not being able to sell alcohol near a daycare center is slated to be abolished.

Richmond Hill attorney and part-owner of Park South commercial plaza Lloyd Murray made a presentation that resulted in the Richmond Hill City Council asking city attorney Ray Smith to amend the existing ordinance due to a business conflict.

Murray said he, along with partners Robbie Ward and Jim Singleton in the Park South project, found themselves caught between an existing city law and a new state law which all of a sudden made it illegal for two incoming Park South restaurants, Molly MacPherson’s and Fuji Japanese Restaurant, to have liquor licenses.

"This is no fault of ours and no fault of the city’s," said Murray who blamed the quandary on the fact that the state Department of Revenue adjusted their rules in April.

The city law prohibits establishments from selling alcohol within 600 feet of a daycare center. In April, the state changed the way that distance is measured. Prior to April, it was by driving distance. The state now uses straight-line distance.

That change made it impossible to legally sell alcohol at Park South due to its close proximity to The Children’s Village in the neighboring Richmond Hill Village shopping center.

Murray said the contracts with the restaurants were signed before April and pleaded with council members for help with this matter, saying he and his partners could potentially be sued.

Mayor Richard Davis explained to Murray he would like to help him because Richmond Hill is a "business-friendly" city that welcomes new businesses. He added that he and council would need advice from the city attorney as they have to abide by the law.

Smith then took the podium. He recognized Murray’s and the city’s predicament and informed the mayor and council that, although he standardized the city’s method of measurement law to mirror the one the state uses, the city has complete discretion on if they want to change it or not. Smith also reminded council that they are the ones that added the daycare clause and can omit that rule if they see fit.

In discussing the matter, the mayor and council discussed "daycares are springing up everywhere" and explored how the daycare clause may cause a dilemma with future development.

"We want daycares and we want nice restaurants," said Councilperson Joann Bickley.

"These businesses (new Park South restaurants) will do nothing to offend the integrity of the surrounding community," said Mayor Pro-tem Floyd Hilliard. "To fix Mr. Murray’s problem would be to fix a city problem."

In the end, the council requested of Smith and city manager Mike Melton to draw up a document in order to initiate a ruling to omit the daycare clause in the current ordinance for all commercial development.

In other business:

- A revised site and tree buffer plan was approved for the new Kroger superstore next to Richmond Place. Melton said that a joint meeting with the Richmond Place Homeowners Association, the city and builders Blanchard & Calhoun took place with each party being content upon a plan which had additional buffer space between the plaza and the subdivision.

- Preliminary site plan approval was granted to Shaylesh Patel for a five-lot subdivision on the northwest corner of Ponderosa and Highway 17, near Hilltop Motors and the RV park.

- An architect from Kern-Coleman presented a sketch plan for a 20-acre, 288-apartment project on Richmond Hill Plantation entitled Richmond Hill Apartments which was critiqued by council for being too high and too dense. The architect said the project will be adjusted in order to be reviewed at a later date.

- Permission was granted to developer Johnny Carnes to clear 22 acres for a 3-story, 216-condo project called Buckeye Plantation behind Ashton Apartments. The master plan presentation was postponed as a late study showed that the project was too dense.

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