On Oct. 2nd nearly 60 people gathered in Memorial Park for a rally to kickoff the LOCAL Campaign where neighbors, community groups and others are working to Let Omaha Control its Alcohol Landscape.
The campaign emerged from a growing frustration about the increasing number of problem alcohol outlets in Omaha, adding to the decline of our neighborhoods, reducing the economic viability of the community and contributing to the violence in our streets. The state system for monitoring liquor license business operations and responding to our community’s needs is broken. The voices of residents are ignored while the economic interests of a powerful industry are protected.
But there is hope. Residents in neighborhoods across Omaha are determined to work with the Omaha City Council, city leaders, community groups, and their neighbors, to pass a local zoning ordinance to remedy the problem. Further, the group will partner with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to craft a model, land-use ordinance that will be used at a national level to assist other communities fighting similar issues.
Municipalities in Nebraska have the ability to regulate community standards with regard to liquor outlets by using land-use, or zoning, ordinances. Nebraska statute gives express direction to the state to consider local zoning ordinances when granting liquor licenses.
WE ARE NOT ALONE
In a move that supports the need for a local ordinance, the Planning Board voted for the inclusion of Environment Omaha’s strategies to decrease alcohol accessibility in neighborhoods as part of the City’s Master Plan. Further, Dr. Robert Muelleman, director of UNMC’s emergency department, Omaha developer Jerry Reimer of Urban Village Development and Del Bomberger, CEO of the Stephen Center have all lent their support to the ordinance.
WHAT WILL AN ORDINANCE LOOK LIKE?
It will have conditions in place that align with our community standards. We may choose, for instance, to reinstate a distance restriction from churches to liquor outlets. The state just removed that restriction. We may want expectations that if a business tells the city and the neighbors that it intends to be a grocery store, that it not morph into a liquor store disguised as a grocery store by setting liquor-to-food ratios.
We would also look at implementing nuisance abatement standards to guarantee a safe environment for neighborhoods: appropriate lighting, noise and littering restrictions, for instance.
YOUR INPUT IS NEEDED
We need your help and input for the ordinance to be successful. Our goal is to have the ordinance before the City Council next spring. From now until the beginning of the year, we will hold meetings to craft the ordinance. If you or your organization/association would like to be involved, please send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org or join our Facebook page at “The LOCAL Campaign” to receive important updates. By phone you can call Cassie Greisen (963-9047), Margie Magnuson (554-0775) or Chris Foster (290-8187).
By Cassie Greisen
Associate Director, Project Extra Mile