Litchfield Square

Litchfield seeks to amend zoning for planned downtown core

City revisits hookah bars, schools and churches

Posted

Litchfield Park city staff are recommending a few changes to the zoning code for its planned Litchfield Square development which is still in its early construction phase. 

Striking hookah bars from its definition of smoke lounge was among the changes discussed at an Aug. 9 planning and zoning meeting.

Currently, hookah bars, alongside cigar lounges and tobacco bars, are included in the city center zoning code for smoke lounges, but that could soon change.

Part of the reason is the “club-like atmosphere” and late-night hours of some hookah establishments. 

“Most cigar bars have earlier hours, many are open right now during the day and close earlier,” City Manager Matthew Williams said in an email. 

“Hookah bars tend to open [in the] early evening around 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. and develop a club-like atmosphere and stay open later,” he said. 

City staff is also recommending the text amendment specifically exclude CBD and vape shops, uses that were never explicitly part of the code to begin with. Staff also want to clarify that recreational and medical marijuana dispensaries are not defined under smoke lounge zoning code, and are regulated separately. 

The zoning code for Litchfield Square was first adopted in 2019, but staff said now that the first lots have been sold off and are making their way through the approval process, potential conflicts have become more clear. 

In response, the city is proposing to amend or delete certain “sensitive” land uses from the zoning code, such as churches and schools, which come with greater restrictions. A bar, for example, cannot exist within 300 feet of a church, according to the zoning code.

“We developed the district in 2019 and now that Litchfield Square is really being planned out…we’re looking at some potential conflicts in the district because of required separation of land uses,” said city planning consultant Jason Sanks at the Aug. 9 meeting.

A workaround that would relax the required separation of land uses would be to designate Litchifled Square as an “entertainment district,” a potential solution floated by staff at the Aug. 9 meeting. 

“If we do that, we don't have to worry about deleting or modifying schools or churches from the city center because an entertainment district relaxes the rules on separating bars from churches,” Sanks said.

He pointed out that other Valley cities like Phoenix and Glendale have entertainment districts of their own.

The city is in the process of seeking resident input on potential zoning changes. City council will have the final word on the zoning code ultimately implemented at Litchfield Square. 

Any changes made to the city center zoning code would not impact land uses outside Litchfield Square. 

Madeline Ackley Salazar can be reached at mackley@iniusa.org or found on Twitter @Mkayackley.

Litchfield Square, Jason Sanks, Litchfield Park, Matthew Williams, Litchfield, hookah bar, hookah lounge, zoning, land use, text amendment, planning and zoning, church, school