Alcohol closer to campus?

Nancy Edmonds Hanson
hansonnanc@gmail.com

Moorhead’s ban on selling alcohol within 300 feet of the city’s three college campuses may be amended to permit restaurants to serve beer and wine within the buffer zone. The change to the long-standing ban was discussed by the City Council for the first time Tuesday. It will come up and be open for citizens’ comments two more times before a final vote.
The proposed change would have no effect on MSUM and M-State, both surrounded by residential zoning where such sales have never been permitted. Where it comes into play is along Eighth Street, where development – including the new Comstock Commons – includes the possibility of establishments that may request liquor licenses.
City manager Chris Volkers told the council, “City staff have had many meetings with the college presidents and others about this issue.” Historic concerns about mixing collegians and booze were behind the state’s long-standing law establishing a buffer zone of 1,500 feet from college property. That was eliminated in 2011 at Moorhead’s request when expansion of the campus boundaries brought them into conflict with businesses on Main and Center Avenues as well as Eighth Street. At that point, and in consultation with the presidents, Moorhead added its own regulation setting the buffer at just 300 feet.
The boundary poses no problem to MSUM and M-State, both surrounded by residential zoning. But Concordia’s property abuts Eighth Street, where several developments are apparently under discussion.
The amendment to city liquor laws would specifically permit “restaurants, where the preparation, service, and sale of food or meals is the principal business from which the majority of the business income is derived” to obtain beer and wine licenses. Hard liquor could not be sold.
Council member Deb White, whose Ward 3 includes the area, said that while there seems to be strong support for the amendment, she would like to have seen more outreach to her constituents before it reached the point of a first hearing before the council. Chuck Hendrickson noted that it will be heard two more times before adoption, and that residents are welcome to weigh in at those council meetings.

MCCARA on upswing
The future is looking bright for the MCCARA Industrial Park, economic development consultant Derrick LaPoint reported to the council, with three Moorhead-based firms planning new facilities or expansions on four of the six lots facing Interstate 94.
Sales of lots in the industrial park, located in the southeast quadrant of I-94 and Highway 52, have been stagnant for several years. That changed Monday with the council’s approval of sales to ISR Homes, Inc.; Pifer Auction and Realty; and PROffutt LLP, better known as RDO. ISR and Pifer plan to build office facilities. RDO will use the land for equipment display in the short run, but plans to build on the site in the next two years. LaPoint noted that all three are expected to request participation in business incentive programs as plans take shape.
“It’s exciting to see the level of activity and interest,” he told council members. “The area is a gateway into our community. This shows we’re on the brink of some great things.”

LinkFM’s fate uncertain
With Fargo’s decision to withdraw from jointly funding free bus service between the two cities’ downtowns, the future of the LinkFM shuttle is up in the air. Transit manager Lori Van Beek laid out alternatives Moorhead may consider, once its neighbor makes a final decision next week.
City manager Volkers pointed out the city has $23,000 earmarked to support the service in its 2020 budget. That could permit the city to pick up the entire cost of several options, including shuttle service between the two downtowns during special events and festivals. Council members brought up other possibilities, including continuing the service from Thursday through Saturday, when it has its heaviest traffic and adding a shuttle to the Bluestem Center for the Arts.
Members voted unanimously to ask community members for their ideas and opinions. The public hearing will be held in the council chamber Monday, Dec. 9, at 5:45 p.m.

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