By Mike Genet

The Independence City Council approved one liquor license Monday, while another was unanimously denied after a dozen citizens spoke against it.

The denied application came from Vibhuti, LLC for the Fast Trip at 1315 E. US 24. Fast Trip opened for business in August 2011 but had applied this year for a liquor license.

The Police Department had recommended denying the application. In the agenda item, police noted a discovery of possible illegal synthetic drugs found during an October field test, as well as the fact the business sells “rolling papers,” commonly used for smoking illegal drugs.

Among the speakers against the license were David Durgan, pastor of the Spirit Life Worship Center across the street from Fast Trip, and Stephen Bishop, leader of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ New Jerusalem Restoration Branch a block away. Both noted their personal beliefs against alcohol.

Members of their congregations, along with neighborhood residents, generally citing the “unsavory” crowd they said already appears in the area, trespassing occurrences and, in the case of one resident, break-ins to a service vehicle. Most said they believed another alcohol outlet in the neighborhood would only enhance that issue.

“The availability of alcohol in the proximity of our house of worship affects our community, and not for the better,” said Bishop, adding that many in his congregation are children. “We’ve had drunken passers-by on foot disrupt activity.”

“I think we have enough liquor stores in our town,” added neighborhood resident Walter Smith.

“I’ve personally had to remove people from the property who were in a drunken state,” said congregation member Brett Stevenson, who went on to cite Johns Hopkins study in Baltimore that associated a higher density of alcohol availability with an increase in crime in the neighborhood.

Jerry Moore owns a barber shop almost directly across the street, noted the change in people he’s seen in the area.

“Since they’ve been there,” he said, referring to the Fast Trip, “it’s been a totally different crowd walking down 24 Highway. People have tried to come in and solicit customers.”

Council Member Curt Dougherty, in whose district the business resides, said he had grave concerns about the liquor license.

“It’s not what we need there,” he said.

The approved application came from Konik Enterprises, Inc. for MoonLight Corner #211 at 211 S. Noland Road. The council had denied an application by the previous owner for a liquor license at the same location in April, and Konik obtained the convenience store July 1.

The public hearing had been conducted Nov. 18, but Council deferred the application to staff, as Dougherty wished to learn about other locations operated by Konik.

“I wanted to do due diligence, and it all came back very good,” said Dougherty, who then told the new owner, Raja Ansin Manzoor, that he was impressed with how the place had been cleaned and spruced up.

“Sometimes businesses fit better in some areas than others,” Dougherty said during the end-of-meeting comments, referring to the two liquor licenses.

Council Member Chris Whiting then thanked citizens for having the courage to come and speak in front of the council.

Council members also approved an emergency ordinance authorizing a contract with the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority for payment of $92,689 to continue inter-city para-transit transportation services, known as Share-A-Fare. The contract is for Jan. 1, 2014, through June 30, 2014.

Also, after an appeals hearing, the council upheld the denial of a business license for Beauty Rest at 1631 E. Salisbury Road to operate as a hotel/motel. The license had expired years ago and was not renewed, and current zoning codes do not allow for a hotel/motel business to operate in an area slate for R-6 (single-family dwelling) or R-30/PUD (high-density residential/planned unit development).

In other matters, the city manager has accepted grants from the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City for the health department ($26,732) and from U.S. Department of Justice for the police department ($47,130). The health department grant will be used to expand asthma education (Open Airway for Schools program) into all Independence School District elementary schools. The police grant will be used to purchase and install an electronic license plate reader, among other technology projects.