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Schools and breweries could become neighbors

Castle Rock may alter law setting distance limits for alcohol businesses

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Castle Rock schools and breweries could soon become neighbors.

As of now, the town's code defaults to a state law requiring at least 500 feet between schools and liquor licensed establishments, like restaurants and pubs. Town staff will research the issue and potentially bring an ordinance to change the rule for areas zoned commercial or industrial before council early next year.

The move is thanks to a competitive real estate market, officials said, in which schools are locating where they haven't traditionally, including industrial and commercial parts of town.

“There's high cost of construction right now, there's limited availability of space,” Castle Rock Economic Development Council President Frank Gray said. “All of those factors drive schools into industrial areas.”

This can unintentionally infringe on the property rights of their neighbors, Gray said, noting it's an issue spanning across the Front Range, and not unique to Castle Rock.

For example, a developer owning property within 500 feet of the school could not then rent space to a restaurant serving alcohol. Existing businesses, say a brewery looking to expand, wouldn't be able to do so because that also requires a new liquor license, Gray said.

Members of the Castle Rock Economic Development Council asked the town council to consider amending the 500-foot restriction, which the law allows municipalities to do, for commercial or industrial areas but not within residential areas. In a memo to the town, Gray wrote that Parker and Denver have created similar ordinances.

This could create an “enter at their own risk” scenario for schools, Councilmember Jason Bower said, in which schools could choose to locate in non-traditional areas but on the understanding there might be businesses holding liquor licenses closer to them than if they'd chosen a residential property.

Councilmembers seemed to agree with the EDC — they'd rather address the zoning conflict soon.

“I think it's a pretty big deal,” Bower said. “Traditionally schools have always been in residential areas but now we see them popping up all over the place.”

Town Manager Dave Corliss explained schools can locate, “in virtually any zone.”

Corliss told council staff would conduct community outreach in preparation for a potential amendment. That, Councilmember Jess Loban said, would be key to making any changes.

“I just think this is a pretty complex thing because this is an emotional thing too” Loban said. “You want to have alcohol establishments within 500 feet, which is restricted today. That could be cause for some upset, and so we need to have some really clear and specific reach out to the community and make sure that we get good feedback as we put this together.”

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