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Norcross may end alcohol buffers
Move would end protective zone near churches

LAWRENCEVILLE - Restaurants with liquor licenses may soon pop up near Norcross churches if a change that seeks to eliminate a 100-yard barrier between the two goes forward.

The city will hold a public hearing Oct. 1 before council members vote on a change that would eliminate the required buffer between businesses with licenses to pour alcoholic beverages and churches, City Manager Warren Hutmacher said.

The restriction currently applies to both churches and schools. Hutmacher said the buffer would still be required for schools, but that removing it for churches could encourage downtown revitalization.

"We're trying to remove an obstacle to redevelopment that doesn't have any proven value," he said. "From a redevelopment standpoint, there are numerous churches downtown and we don't want to limit possible restaurants."

Hutmacher said he expects the ordinance to pass the City Council with little opposition, but former city Councilman Craig Newton - who is running for another term - said he thinks removing the boundaries on alcohol can open the city up to problems.

"If we remove the stipulation, we can't effectively regulate businesses," he said. "We want to create a sense of community."

The area that would most likely be affected by the change, Hutmacher said, is a proposed mixed-use development surrounding Lillian Webb Community Park. A church across the street would limit restaurants from coming there unless the ordinance is changed, he said.

He expects some support for the ordinance from residents who do not think the city should be involved in moral issues and opposition from those who are religiously opposed to alcohol sales.

"It should be interesting," Hutmacher said. "I think there's going to be majority support of council."