MILTON — City officials plan to amend local alcohol ordinances to allow religious institutions to serve alcohol at special events.

At the Aug. 17 Committee of the Whole meeting, Monsignor Michael Reed, the pastor at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Milton, approached the council for clarification on the alcohol laws currently in place. The law states that alcohol cannot be served within 500 feet of a house of worship.

Reed asked the council if this regulation meant that his church itself could not host wine tasting events, provide beer at an Oktoberfest celebration, have alcohol at wedding receptions, or other things of that nature.

According to Randy Jorgenson, the city’s planning director, the current ordinance does not allow for any exception to the rule, and since the church is obviously within 500 feet of a religious institution, the only way it would be allowed is if the city amended the ordinance.

City Manager Brian Watkins recommended that the city staff construct language to change the ordinance, to add an “opt out” clause; this would allow churches who do not have an issue with alcohol within 500 feet of their institution to say so, allowing consumption and selling of alcoholic beverages within their building and within 500 feet.

Watkins cautioned that the changing of the ordinance will be permanent, and the city will not be able to change it back once it is in place. According to Jorgenson, to change this ordinance, the city must first construct the language, followed by a first and second reading of the ordinance amendment at the next two consecutive meetings; the city will then do a survey of all the congregations in the community.

The council voted to construct this new language to amend the ordinance, allowing St. Rose of Lima to have alcoholic beverages at special events. The item passed with only one opposition from Councilwoman Pat Lunsford; Councilwoman Ashley Lay and Councilman Casey Powell were absent from the meeting.