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Beer Garden plans next to church has neighbors concerned

Jeff Krum, President of the Boulevard Brewing Company, held an informational meeting with the Westside neighborhood residents Monday evening on constructing a beer garden on the property between the Boulevard Brewery Tour Center building and Sacred Heart/Guadalupe church on Madison Avenue in Kansas City, Missouri.

About 80 people attended the meeting held at the former Skelly Building. Neighbors stood divided over the beer garden.

Juanita Franco learned about the plans for a beer garden when the Boulevard Brewery sent out letters to the neighborhood stating what they wanted to do with the property between the church and the Boulevard tour building.

“I am against this. We had a community meeting on the side of the church a week before and we were informed what was happening. This property is considered residential and we don’t want it because it will be so close to the church. I am against it because of the traffic too. Cars zoom up our street all the time. We have kids out there all the time playing,” said Franco.

The area in question is where the former church rectory sat years ago and when DST Systems purchased the property from the diocese, they put in an outdoor seating area for their employees to take a break and built a small parking lot that could be used by DST and the church.

“I have stared at it for 20 plus years as I look out my office. That area never was used very much. The second floor where we have our beer hall in the Boulevard tour building gets pretty busy so we were scratching our heads trying to figure out what we might do on those handful of days when we are quite busy and where could we provide additional seating for people,” said Krum.

The unused stretch of land between the church building and the Boulevard visitors center came into Krum mind as a place that they could open for people to sit outside and visit with their friends and enjoy a drink. As he began to hatch the idea of a beer garden, he realized that the property his company wanted to use is zoned residential and not commercial. He learned from City Hall that the land could be rezoned to commercial mix use if the Planning and Zoning committee approved it.

A meeting will be held on September 19th at 9 a.m. on the 26th floor of City Hall to discuss rezoning the property.

“We talked with our neighbors and the church and told them about an idea and we wanted their feed back. We acted in good faith, we went to the church and told them the idea that we had, let’s talk about what we can do for you and we came to an arrangement that would benefit the church. We have a 28-year reputation to protect and we are not going to do anything that is going to endanger our reputation or create problems for you or for any of our neighbors. We have been open for 13 months here (Boulevard tour building) and the police have been here zero times, we have had zero incidences, and zero complaints. We attempt to run a tight ship and we try to do things that are good for all of our neighbors,” stated Krum.

When Alice Gomez received an email from Krum explaining that the Boulevard Brewery wanted to put in a beer garden in close proximity to the church, she became concerned.

“They want to rezone the property from residential to commercial. I am against that. I am not for it because they will have music late at night; they will have smoking out there and will be drinking beer within 15 feet of the church. Who wants a beer garden next to the church? I will agree that Boulevard has been a good neighbor but to me they are encroaching a little too much now,” said Gomez.

Krum showed a proposed drawing of the property to all those in attendance of the meeting. “The idea was not to touch the 14 car parking lot because that is something the church uses on Sundays, and we are happy for them to continue to do that. We imagined securing the grassy area with fencing, a nice board fence, and turning one of the windows on the back side of our building into a door, where people would come through our building and walk out into the enclosed sitting area. There would not be people entering the area from the street or from the small parking lot. It wouldn’t draw more people than we are already drawing and we would close it early around 8 p.m. There would be no music, no TV’s and we would be closed during church services,” he explained.

Michael Duffy, lawyer at Legal Aid in Kansas City is representing the Westside CAN center as they oppose the beer garden.

“When the rezoning meeting takes place, I intend to testify for the CAN Center that this is not a proper land use decision,” he said.

Duffy is unsure if the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph is aware of Boulevard Brewery plans for the property.

“If there is a new agreement it should be entered into by the current owner, Boulevard Brewery and the Diocese. The city staff may not have realized that the Catholic Church is handled differently than other churches. In other churches the pastor can sign consent or not sign a consent form on an agreement with another entity,” said Duffy.

Kansas City Hispanic News asked Father Darvin Salazar, pastor at Sacred Heart/Guadalupe church about the agreement between Boulevard Brewery and the church and he declined to speak with Hispanic News on the record.

Jack Smith, Director of Communications for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph told Hispanic News, that the Diocese will have to sign any agreement that would involved any encroachment on Diocesan property.

“Right now Boulevard is waiting for their rezoning change approval. There is no formal agreement until after that happens,” said Smith.

Smith explained that pastor Salazar has consulted with the parish finance counsel and the parish counsel about preliminary agreements with Boulevard and both of those counsels have agreed with his approach. According to Smith, “this sets up a frame work to make sure that this development doesn’t interfere with church services.”

The Diocese is aware that some property owners are upset. As of this interview, the Diocese has heard from three people about the issue.

“I would like to emphasize that Boulevard has always been a very good neighbor to Sacred Heart and supportive of their programs and supportive of Diocesan programs. They have been very generous with the Diocese and the parish and they have been very good neighbors. I would hope that we find an agreement that continues that good neighbor relationship,” said Smith.

Andrea Garcia family has lived in the church community for the years and she expressed concern about the safety of her children and for her neighbors if Boulevard Brewery operates a beer garden there and wondered if traffic would become an issue.

“I see people leaving here and shoot like a bat out of hell up Madison, they shoot down 27th, they shoot down to the boulevard, it is not your children, your grandchildren at risk from the cars and it is our cars that are getting sideswiped. We worry about our children getting hurt. When it comes to my safety, my children’s safety and my neighbors’ safety, that is a legit concern and it should be for you as well. The other issue here is that this is right next to the church. We don’t want this next to our church. You go home and your church is not next to a beer garden, sir,” said Garcia.

Krum told Garcia that he appreciated her comments and will take her comments into consideration. “One of the concerns we had was to minimize the traffic, and if you sit here and watch people coming and going 99 out of a 100 cars come and go the way they came on 25th Street. We have always attempted to keep traffic out of the residential area,” he said.

Omar Lopez lives in the 2700 block on the Westside and strongly opposes the beer garden.

“What I will say is we are not rezoning anything. Next to my church, that is not going to happen. Rezoning would hurt the entire neighborhood, not just the church,” he said.

John Fierro a resident turned to the crowd and clarified the issue before the neighbors.

“The issue tonight is do you support the rezoning for them to put in the beer garden. I have known Jeff Krum for over 20 years and they have been good partners to several non-for-profit organizations in this neighborhood. He is here seeking input from the neighbors about the beer garden and I know what he is saying to you to be true,” said Fierro.

While no agreements were reached at the informational meeting, Krum did tell the crowd that he would be happy to meet with them in smaller groups to discuss and address their concerns about the Boulevard future project.

“Our relationship with all of you, our neighbors, is more important to us than establishing an outdoor seating area. We believe if we were to do this, it would be unnoticeable by any of our neighbors. We are not going to create a problem for ourselves or our neighbors,” Krum said.