Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What Is The Real Measure Of 500 Feet?

Peoria Pastors Join Riverside Community Church In Raising Concerns Over Big Al's Relocation

In a Tuesday May 25th article in the Peoria Journal Star, Riverside Community Church (Pastor John King) voiced their concern over an ordinance that the City Of Peoria either wasn't aware of or simply didn't care about violating as it pertains to the relocation of a Peoria strip-club. The disagreement may put the brakes on a $102 million hotel development project.

The controversy centers around Big Al's strip club and it's proposed new proximity to Riverside Church. Depending upon how it is measured, Riverside's facilities would be approximately 380 feet away from the proposed relocation site of Big Al's. This is problematic as the ordinance calls for an adult use establishment to remain a minimum distance of 500 feet from a church, school or other adult use establishment and 700 feet from any residentially zoned properties.

Up until Riverside voiced their concern, it seemed that noone stopped to consider what Big Al's relocation would mean to adjacent businesses or organizations. Part of that was probably due to the fact that Big Al's is close to a church already and another part may stem from an unsuccessful case that was tried and lost to Elliott's strip-club in North Peoria. At either rate it seemed that the council had "tunnel vision" with little discussion for a standing city ordinance and how that would relate to Riverside church. Riverside is a visible and valuable asset to the Peoria Community. Riverside Community Church adds significant value to the residents of Peoria, IL. and has been used for many public event which the city has endorsed.

Riverside's website states the following:
"Since arriving in the City of Peoria, Riverside has renovated two rapidly deteriorating landmark buildings within the city, and in doing so has invested $4.5 million in these buildings with no monetary support from the government. Riverside invests over $200,000 annually on programs that directly benefit the inner-city of Peoria. Through our Dream Center Peoria programs over the last eight years we have provided 14,000 backpacks with school supplies to kids in need, and this year we are introducing a program for school kids’ uniforms. We help over 500 families a month with clothing, food, household goods and furniture. Our state of the art youth facility provides a safe environment for kids in the city to flourish and find refuge from the streets. Our AOK events mobilize volunteers from over 10 churches to impact 10 targeted areas of the city through acts of service on a Saturday, every other month. And from fall to spring each year more than 250 kids and youth participate in DCP athletics. In addition, Riverside invests over a million dollars annually into the local economy.

I have written to all of our city council members. In the letter I stated, “The reasons the original ordinance was passed are the same reasons we appeal to you to vote for the upholding of the said ordinance - the safe guarding of women, youth and children within the vicinity. Please, this must be your main concern, as it is ours. We want to appeal to you as the representative of the people to please vote to uphold the law - the original ordinance.”

The question is whether Big Al's comes under a "grandfather clause" because of their current status condition and longevity in Peoria's downtown. Councilman Eric Turner feels that if the church is successful in their opposition that this is death blow to the whole hotel development project. While we certainly hope that isn't so, we feel that it is in the best interest of the City to work with the church's request and observation in this matter.

Councilman Ryan Spain, drawing upon his experience with Elliott's strip-club in North Peoria, outlined the following in a letter to Pastor King:
"BigAl's relocation is a case where the business will have strong legal justification in moving to a new location if that location results in closer compliance to the City's existing adult use ordinance. As you know, Big Al's is currently located within a few feet of Sacred Heart. Moving to another location will likely increase the distance between the establishment and the nearest church."
This is a highly complex issue, but one that demands the attention of the council to address the concerns of one of Peoria's churches. How one measures Peoria in handling things like this is an important issue. Thank God that Riverside wrote and got teh attention of the council. We hope that going forward the Peoria council would take concern in addressing issues such as these and respectfully engage community and church leaders as a part of the process and not as an after thought. However that is what public meetings and engagement is all about.

Pastor H. Burnett
Exec. Director

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