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City Tells Church to Move Because It’s Too Close to Liquor Store

March 4, 1989

WINTER GARDEN, Fla. (AP) _ Saying the law works both ways, officials are forcing a storefront church to move because it’s too close to a liquor store and lounge.

Residents of this community near Orlando voted in 1984 to change the city charter to prohibit business within 1,200 feet of a school or church from selling liquor. The intent may have been to protect churchgoers and schoolchildren, city commissioners said, but in this case, the liquor store was there first - by 24 years, so the Oakview Baptist Church will have to leave.

The 40-member church, which holds services on Sundays and Wednesdays, moved into the one-room office in September.

Part-time pastor Don Voss, a school bus driver, says moving would be a hardship. The 5-year-old church has moved several times and had only $5 in its treasury after he paid last month’s rent of $375, he said Thursday.

He questioned why the city didn’t catch the infraction earlier.

The congregation is made up of fruit pickers, house cleaners, bus drivers and security guards. ″We just barely can make it. We don’t have much income,″ said Voss, who is not paid a salary.

A member of the code enforcement board raised the issue when commissioners met with three city boards last month. The city attorney was asked to research the question, and he reported last week that the church violated the city charter. The law cannot be changed without a voter referendum.

″Personally, I wish nobody had brought it up,″ said Commissioner John Rees.

Commissioner Theo Graham, who was instrumental in the petition drive that got the 1,200-foot restriction on the ballot, said, ″The intent was not to stop a church from coming in. If they want to be that close to a bar, that’s their business.″

The city code enforcement officer, Glen Venable, said the church had 30 days to leave.

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