Lee’s Summit proposes to allow more taverns downtown

rpulley@lsjournal.comJune 28, 2013 

Lee’s Summit is poised to relax regulations for taverns and bars downtown to allow more of those businesses to open near residential areas.

It also would change rules for bars in the Missouri 150 Corridor.

The Lee’s Summit Planning Commission, after hearing a staff presentation June 25, voted 6-0 to recommend that the City Council pass the amendment to the Unified Development Ordinance.

Bob McKay, director of planning, said the city is getting requests for changes from a couple of people who would like to open a bar or tavern, but could not because of distance limits. He said that in an urban environment the city is trying to establish in those areas, it’s common to have lofts above restaurants and businesses.

“We didn’t want to discourage it, if somebody wants that lifestyle,” McKay said.

Tim Hosmann, who owns a couple of properties in the Central Business District, has a potential tenant whose project is waiting on the ordinance change.

He said he hopes the City Council acts quickly to change the rules. A public hearing at the council is scheduled for July 25.

“They may possibly walk away from an opportunity if Lee’s Summit has this on the books,” Hosmann said. “For a small business owner, 90 days can make all the difference.

“To me, it’s correcting an oversight or leveling the playing field.”

There are bars and restaurants serving liquor already near downtown loft apartments and condominiums. They are within easy walking distance of historic neighborhoods. The bars are “grandfathered” because they were established before the distance regulations in the Unified Development Ordinance were adopted, said Linda Tyrell, deputy director of planning.

Hosmann said he just wants the same opportunity owners of buildings where other taverns are located. He said that people living in the downtown core have an understanding they are near such establishments.

Hosmann said taverns would still have to meet all safety and health requirements, and adding more “well-run, safe and reputable bars” downtown would be a plus for other establishments.

“You make it a night life destination for people who don’t want to drive into the city,” Hosmann said.

No one spoke to oppose the amendment at Planning Commission.

The amendments have some safeguards in place for residential neighborhoods in the designated transition zone that’s around the downtown core.

The amendment:

• Keeps 300 feet distance requirement between bars/taverns and churches, schools and residential districts.

• Removes distance requirements between bars and residential uses if both are in the Central Business District zone. It removes the distance requirement for bars and loft dwellings in the CP-2 district.

• Reduces distance limit to 100 feet between bars and residential uses in the TNZ or PO district.

It also would make similar change for restaurants serving alcohol, to remove distance requirements between residential use in the Central Business District and for loft dwellings in CP-2.

In south Lee’s Summit, it also removes distance requirements between bars, lofts and apartments in the new M-150 districts of CDO-MR, CDO-MC or CDO-ME. Those districts aren’t attached to any particular land as of yet, but there is an overlay that shows where they could be put, in areas yet undeveloped, McKay said.

Ryan Smarr, president of Lee’s Summit Downtown Main Street Inc.’s executive board, said the group is interested in the amendments and are working on understanding how it might fit in with its mission of downtown revitalization and historic preservation. It will be discussing the issue at a future board meeting, he said.

He said the group wants downtown visitors to have more choices for entertainment as long as it is a balanced mix.

“We do want to expand with quality and diversity,” Smarr said. “Maybe a place where you can get a good steak.”

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