Tuesday, June 18, 2024

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Elon town council expands social district to include part of church grounds

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Elon’s town council has given its blessing to a proposal that will add land owned by an area church into a new downtown district where beer and wine can be consumed in the open air.

During regularly-scheduled meeting on Tuesday, the council unanimously agreed to incorporate this scenic promontory on the grounds of Elon Community Church into the so-called “social district” that the council established last fall within a block of downtown that’s populated by several restaurants and bars.

[Story continues below graphic of the original social drinking district.]

ORIGINAL OUTLINE OF ELON’S SOCIAL DRINKING DISTRICT

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Comprising a small swath of green space where park benches and picnic tables sit in the shade of old-growth oaks, this latest addition to Elon’s social district is actually located across West College Avenue from the rest of the town’s alfresco tippling zone. This area has nevertheless become a popular haunt for both the church’s parishioners as well as members of the public at large – with the town having even provided some of the furnishings for this communal green space.

Jill Weston, the town’s downtown director, reminded that council that this portion of the church’s grounds was always considered a prime candidate for inclusion in the town’s social district.

Jill Weston

“We originally wanted to include the Elon Community Church property in our scope,” she added prior to Tuesday’s decision. “But at the time, we didn’t have their agreement with the church. So, we went ahead and voted on the district without it.”

Weston went on to present a draft of this long-sought agreement, which spells out the terms and conditions of the property’s absorption into the district. With this contract’s approval, people who purchase beer or wine at a participating watering hole will be able to meander across College Avenue and laze on the church’s tree-studded lawn. They will be required, however, to adhere to all of the social district’s provision, which include a requirement that any potent potable must be consumed from a specially marked plastic cup.

In the end, the council saw no sin in allowing the district’s social drinkers to congregate on this small stretch of church property. Among those who felt comfortable allowing this seemingly unorthodox use of the site was councilman Randy Orwig, who also serves as the pastor of Elon Community Church.

Elon town councilman Randy Orwig

“Basically, it covers an area where the picnic tables are at. So, people are going to sit there anyway,” Orwig said as he justified his support for the 5-to-0 vote. We’re not going to profit or not profit from it. It’s just about being part of the community.”

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