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If the distance requirement for liquor establishments and churches in the core business district is amended in city code, Calvary Chapel of Cascade County could locate in the Penington Place Building on Central Avenue without posing a threat to future downtown development, according to the city. (Photo: Karl Puckett)

The Great Falls City Commission will vote on a permit for Calvary Chapel to set up business in the downtown Penington Place building, 427 Central Ave., a request that’s prompted a move to scrap a rule requiring 600 feet of distance between taverns and churches.

When Calvary Chapel applied for a conditional use permit for locating the worship facility in the building, members of the downtown community voiced concerns that it would stop businesses in the future from seeking new liquor licenses within 600 feet of the church.

State law prohibits issuing liquor licenses to businesses within 600 feet of worship facilities.

More: Pastor invokes Jesus in support of ordinance allowing churches near liquor establishments

Cities can enact ordinances that would supplant the location prohibition.

The Commission will consider an ordinance that deletes the distance requirement between taverns and churches in the central business core zoning district. The ordinance the Commission will consider notes that restaurants and micro-breweries with liquor licenses will have no distance restriction.

The Commission will conduct public hearings Tuesday on both Calvary Chapel’s request for a conditional use permit and the proposal to scrap the distance requirement.

The Planning Advisory Board in July recommended that the City Commission eliminate the distance requirement.

At that meeting, the board also asked the Commission to consider removing distance requirements between casinos and worship facilities as well. Gaming licenses are associated with a liquor license. 

The Commission will consider two motions, one that deletes the distance requirement between worship facilities and taverns and one that deletes the distance requirement between worship facilities and taverns and casinos.

Calvary, located on Fox Farm Road, is requesting a conditional use permit from the city to use the main floor and a portion of the basement at Penington Place for church services, Bible studies and office use.

What’s next

The Great Falls City Commission meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Civic Center, 2 Park Drive S.

Karl Puckett covers the city of Great Falls and Cascade County for the Tribune. He can be reached at [email protected] or 406-750-5383, or on Twitter at @GFTrib_KPuckett

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