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Schools consider liquor license ban

Members of Sunnyside's Promise delivered a proposal to the Sunnyside School Board Monday that, if passed, would in essence, ban any business from obtaining a liquor license within 500 feet of the district's new Sierra Vista Middle School currently under construction on Washout Road.

"We don't have an opportunity very often to be proactive," said Sunnyside Deputy Police Chief Phil Schenck speaking on behalf of Sunnyside's Promise.

Schenck said the school board has a lot of power, more power in fact, than the city in its ability to keep new businesses from obtaining liquor licenses near district property.

But, the district can't do anything about businesses close to district property, which already have licenses, as they are grandfathered in.

Superintendent Rick Cole said due to the fact that the new school is being built on agricultural land, he didn't know if businesses could even be built that close to Sierra Vista.

Schenck said because the school itself is not an agricultural structure, a buffer area would be created around the school, which would make it vulnerable to new businesses, who may attempt to obtain liquor licenses.

"We've always talked about doing what's right for kids," said Board Member Stephen Carpenter.

He asked Schenck if current businesses close to existing schools have had problems with selling alcohol to minors.

Schenck said he didn't know exactly how big the problem was because the police department doesn't send minors into stores very often in an attempt to buy alcohol.

However, he said several of the stores had been issued citations in the past.

Schenck said the position would serve notice to all businesses, that they would have difficulty in obtaining licenses and would give everybody fair warning for the future.

Carpenter and fellow board member Lorenzo Garza expressed interest in giving the proposal more thought.

Despite his interest in doing what's best for kids, which he said includes educating them about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, Carpenter said he doesn't think it's the school board's place to tell businesses how to do business.

"It's been my position that we as a school board are in the business of educating kids," Carpenter said. "At what point are we getting out of the education business and into the regulatory business?"

Despite his position, Carpenter said after the meeting that he valued the board's relationship with the city and Sunnyside's Promise.

"We've got a great partnership with Sunnyside's Promise and the city," he said.

The board agreed to give the proposal more thought and will discuss it further at December's board meeting.

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