Gearhart is game for video lottery

Gearhart reaffirmed findings granting a conditional use permit to Gearhart Crossing for a conditional use permit granting four video lottery machines.

Gearhart Crossing will get its video lottery machines.

In early July, city councilors changed direction and withdrew a notice with the state challenging the addition of up to six lottery machines in the pub and deli.

Wednesday night, councilors approved the final findings document from the June meeting. During the June meeting the council voted four in favor and one abstention to approve the lottery machines at the neighborhood cafe, opening the door to the machines owner Terry Lowenberg has been seeking since late November.

Conditions included a restriction on exterior signage related to lottery machines; a separated area for patrons seated at the lottery machines; tables available for patrons at the lottery machines for the purpose of consuming food and beverages; and a closing time of 10 p.m.

Citing losses at his neighborhood grocery at 599 Pacific Way, Lowenberg won a conditional use permit to open a neighborhood brewpub and deli at the former Gearhart Grocery in March 2016.

After commissioners approved the plan, Lowenberg submitted an amended permit request seeking video lottery machines. Machines were to be separated from the main dining room by an 8-foot wall designed to deter minors from the gambling area.

Maintaining neighborhood character, the proximity of lottery machines at nearby locations along U.S. Highway 101 and no proven need all factored into two Planning Commission and subsequent City Council decisions to deny the permit that would have allowed the machines.

In May, Lowenberg took his case to the state’s Land Use Board of Appeals.

As a business that serves beer and wine on the premise, state law issues clear rules regarding the placement of lottery machines, his attorney Greg Hathaway said, and held sway over local zoning prohibitions.

A key provision of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission law regulates how a video lottery game may be placed Hathaway said, and does not require an applicant to demonstrate that the placement of lottery machines is permitted by local land use regulations.

Responding to what City Attorney Peter Watts called “the strong language” of the state ordinance, the city withdrew the land use case for reconsideration in late May, and in July, voted on behalf of granting a conditional use permit for the machines.

Wednesday, councilors asked if the seats in the gaming area would count toward the cafe’s limit of 40 for the establishment, or if they would be considered separately.

“There are no questions about how many seats there can be according to code: 40 in the building,” Lowenberg said. “Where you put them in the building doesn’t make any difference.”

Mayor Matt Brown, Councilors Sue Lorain, Dan Jesse and Paulina Cockrum voted to approve the conditional use permit allowing the lottery machines.

Councilor Kerry Smith voted against.

The decision of the City Council may be appealed to the Land Use Board of Appeals.

“This is the end of this portion of it, and there is a 21-day opportunity for people to appeal, starting today,” City Administrator Chad Sweet said after the meeting.

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