Proposed liquor store would be neighbors with AA center

- Hillsborough County is considering a proposal to open a liquor store next door to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting center. 

The pitch has drawn the ire of Pastor Norm Coffman, who helps run the Oak Grove United Methodist Church near the 4048 N. Armenia Ave. site.

"We are in favor of new businesses," said Coffman. "But we feel this location is inappropriate."

The plan has triggered a hearing from the Hillsborough County zoning officer. It would be 450 feet from Twin Lakes Elementary School, 100 feet from the Methodist church and daycare, 30 feet from residential homes, and would share a wall with Alcoholics Anonymous.

"Temptation is closer," said Coffman.

He made the argument at a zoning hearing Monday night. But the representative for store owner Kalpana Patel told the zoning officer Patel should be allowed to relocate from Brandon.

"There is liquor everywhere, it doesn't matter that it's next door," said the representative, Dixie Liberty. "Anybody can move in next door, there could be a restaurant with full liquor. What are they supposed to do, move?"

She argues the listed distances to the church, daycare and school are misleading, because there is an eight-foot concrete wall, which adds an additional 500 feet of distance to travel.

"It's not like you can just sit outside and see everything that is going on," said Liberty.

Even though the hearing was triggered because of those distances, the hearing officer asked specifically about the AA center.

"Did you investigate it at all, do you know anything about it?" asked the officer.

Liberty argued AA is not protected like schools or churches, saying the county doesn't already list them as a community use.

"She is sorry that they are there, but this is her business, this is her life," Liberty said of Patel. "If they don't like it, I am quite sure they can, they can move."

The hearing officer has three weeks to rule on the proposal.

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