Parker, Florida — A small city in Florida is considering enacting a ban against establishing new churches near businesses that sell alcoholic beverages.
City council members in Parker, Florida state that the ordinance would bar the construction or conversion of a building into a house of worship within 500 feet of any beer-selling business, including bars and restaurants. They say that it is only fair because current statutes prohibit businesses that wish to obtain a liquor license from being established within 500 feet of any church.
“We already had an ordinance that doesn’t permit bars within 500 feet of a church and this makes it both ways,” Councilman Michael Miller told the News Herald in November. “There’s no sense in having one without the other to me.”
“We are just making it reciprocal,” he repeated this week. “I just questioned why it doesn’t work both ways.”
City council reviewed the proposal during its meeting this month as the measure went through its first reading. It is stated that existing churches will not be affected if the measure becomes law.
However, some area churches are concerned nonetheless in the event that they ever wished to move, expand or rebuild. They believe that the ordinance would, in effect, place a ban on the establishment of any new churches, since the city is so small. In Parker, a city encompassing 2.5 square miles, there are 15 businesses that sell alcohol, including Winn-Dixie and Pizza Hut.
“If we wanted to relocate as a church to a larger place within the city, as we did 50 years ago, that could be difficult not to relocate within 500 feet of some place that sells alcohol,” Pastor String Fellow of Parker United Methodist Church told reporters. “Not that we are wanting to relocate — we’re happy where we are — but should we ever want to relocate, that would very much limit where we could move within the city of Parker.”
Parker City Council is set to vote on the matter on February 5th.
As previously reported, many churches across the nation have been fighting battles with city officials over ordinances that they find too oppressive. Last year, New Generation Christian Church in Rockdale, Georgia filed a federal lawsuit over a city zoning ordinance that mandated all churches to possess at least three acres of property — land that the small church cannot afford.
In Prince George’s County, Maryland, county council enacted an ordinance that requires those meeting at home for Bible studies or worship to be subjected to an extensive zoning process. The process mandates noise and traffic studies, which can take up to one year to complete and can cost as much as $10,000.
Additionally, in San Juan Capistrano, California, a couple had been fined $300 last year for violating the city’s zoning ordinance, which prohibits “religious, fraternal or non-profit [home] gatherings” of 4 or more people without a permit. However, due to public outcry over the matter, city council changed its zoning code to remove penalties against those who host home Bible studies without government permission.