KENSINGTON – During its monthly meeting Aug. 13, members of the Kensington Town Council reviewed the pros and cons of allowing the county to oversee its alcohol licensing.
Because several areas in the town are zoned so as not to permit liquor licenses, Kensington has found itself turning to the state for permission to allow such licenses whenever it believes such an establishment, or event, would benefit the town.
Getting permission from the state “usually takes eight months,” noted Mayor Tracey Furman.
Often, it is not easy to understand why certain commercial zones ban alcohol sales, said Furman.
Those who want to sponsor an event in town and serve liquor or offer alcohol tastings are not willing to wait that long for permission, she said. It’s also likely that a business may decide not to move into Kensington if they cannot obtain a liquor license without waiting that long, she said.
“I think it’s the events we are missing,” she said. “We are really holding ourselves back.”
Furman added, “I think we are frustrating everybody. It is getting a little old.”
While Kensington councilmembers are not looking to bring in lots of establishments that sell wine, beer and hard liquor, they would like to allow residents to imbibe from time-to-time at special events.
During their meeting, the councilmembers questioned Kathie Durbin, division chief of licensure, regulation and education with the Montgomery County Department of Alcohol Beverage Services, about how much control the town would have if they adopted the county’s alcohol regulations.
“We are happy to help in any way,” Durbin said. “Just remember, this is your town.”
She added, “We want your input. You know your community best.”
Durbin assured councilmembers that part of the county’s process before issuing licenses includes making sure the perspective owners would not sell to minors and could handle incidents involving patrons drinking too much alcohol as well as security.
The county offers free onsite training for businesses seeking liquor licenses, she said.
The goal would be to keep Kensington “safe and vibrant,” Durbin explained.
If Kensington agreed to allow the county to get involved, the process would take a much shorter amount of time, Durbin said.
Costs for obtaining liquor licenses would remain the same. The county currently has 30 different types of licenses that cover businesses that offer just beer and wine to ones that sell hard liquor or offer snacks or full menus.
The county has seen an increase in the number of breweries coming here, Durbin said. And the number of events offering alcohol “have almost tripled,” she said.
The county already handles Kensington’s zoning regulations.
The council will continue its discussion, looking into what hours they prefer establishments to be able to sell alcohol and whether they want to set limits on what types of establishments would be welcome.
Councilman Darin Bartram noted that he did not want any beer and wine stores with prices and images filling the front windows.
“We are just trying to avoid going back to the state,” Furman said. “It takes forever.”
During the meeting, councilmembers moved closer to opening a dog park at 10450 Metropolitan Avenue.
Konterra Limited Partnership donated a 77,500-square-foot lot to the town free of charge.
The dog park would be adjacent to Konterra’s parking lot and would include a walking path and picnic table and benches.
The town agreed to install a six-foot fence around the perimeter.
Meanwhile, a group of residents will meet next month to plan the details of the dog park.
“It’s going to be resident-driven,” Furman said, adding, “It’s a great location.”
Councilmembers also discussed updating the town’s sign-permitting process. They are seeking ways to control lit signs that remain on all night and office vacancy signs that stay up so long, they seem permanent.
The council also are looking into strengthening regulations that control large banners and signs moved by the wind.