Independence is putting a lid on the number of tobacco/convenience stores in town, in an effort to curtail crime. The ordinance passed Monday amends the city’s Unified Development Ordinance to limit the number of such stores to 14, based city’s 2010 census population.

Independence has a combined 14 tobacco or convenience stores – convenience stores with fuel sales are a different category – and the approved ordinance limits such establishments to one per 8,000 residents. Independence’s latest census population was 116,830. The stores must not be within 500 feet of any residential use or district, church, school or public park unless they possess a special use permit.

The agenda item said the code amendment “is part of a multi-pronged approach to address illegal activity associated with these types of business, including the sale of synthetic marijuana and drug paraphernalia.”

“This will be the next step in tackling the problem the police department has noticed,” City Manager Robert Heacock told the City Council. “Earlier this year we introduced administrative procedures that would allow us to hold businesses responsible and possibly suspend the license.”

Heacock also thanked District 2 Council Member Curt Dougherty for pushing the discussion on the amendment.

“I know he’s had problems with this in his district,” Heacock said.

Heacock noted that the Council has passed similar measures to limit payday loan businesses and certain liquor licenses based on population.

Council members also heard an appeal of a liquor license suspension for Linq Food Mart No. 2, 18700 E. U.S. 24, for selling alcohol to a minor, and voted to uphold the suspension.

As a two-time offender in a rolling three-year period, the business was slated to receive a six-day suspension, but liquor license officer Terry Hartwig said he reduced the suspension to five days, with one day in abeyance for three years, since the business was four days away from clearing the three-year rolling period.

Salima Bhura, manager of the Linq Food Mart, said in her appeal that the offending clerk had an eye problem and misread the date of birth on the ID presented by the police department’s operative, accepted full responsibility at the administrative hearing and had been fired. She also noted the business had passed a more recent compliance check.

Dougherty offered the possibility of further leniency based on the efforts Linq had made before and after the incident, as well as the leniency granted to other businesses. Other council members noted Linq had been a five-time offender over a four-year period stretching back through 2009.