Wet law push on again in Bar­ling

City Ad­min­is­tra­tor Mike Tan­ner said he wants to meet with of­fi­cials of the ci­ties in the part of Se­bas­tian County out­side Fort Smith, called the Green­wood district, to gauge their sup­port for an elec­tion to make the district wet.

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - VOICES - DAVE HUGHES

FORT SMITH — Bar­ling of­fi­cials are re­viv­ing ef­forts to le­gal­ize al­co­hol sales in their town by try­ing to turn the south­ern district of Se­bas­tian County from dry to wet.

City Ad­min­is­tra­tor Mike Tan­ner said he wants to meet with of­fi­cials of the ci­ties in the part of Se­bas­tian County out­side Fort Smith, called the Green­wood district, to gauge their sup­port for an elec­tion to make the district wet. Liquor sales are le­gal in Fort Smith.

Bar­ling’s Board of Di­rec­tors au­tho­rized Tan­ner in its meet­ing last week to quiz the other ci­ties’ may­ors about an elec­tion. Tan­ner said he hasn’t spo­ken with any of the may­ors yet but may take the op­por­tu­nity at the Nov. 14 ded­i­ca­tion of Bar­ling’s new city hall.

Bar­ling can­not act by it­self to make the city wet. An elec­tion in 2012 to al­low al­co­hol sales in Bar­ling failed even though vot­ers there ap­proved the mea­sure 1,082 to 546.

Rul­ing in Jan­uary 2013 on a chal­lenge to the elec­tion, Se­bas­tian County Cir­cuit Court Judge Stephen Ta­bor said the en­tire Green­wood district would have to vote on the is­sue since it was the en­tire district that voted to ban al­co­hol sales in 1944 by a vote of 1,190 to 463.

Se­bas­tian County has two dis­tricts that act as in­de­pen­dent coun­ties: Fort Smith and the Green­wood district, which en­com­passes the rest of the county, in­clud­ing Bar­ling.

Tan­ner said he thought Green­wood, the largest city in the district with a pop­u­la­tion of 8,952, would be re­cep­tive to the idea of al­co­hol sales, since the coun­cil passed the first read­ing of an or­di­nance to al­low the owner of a pro­posed sports bar to ap­ply to the state for a pri­vate club li­cense.

The vote on the or­di­nance at the Oct. 2 meet­ing was 4-2. Mayor Doug Kinslow said he had to vote so there would be the re­quired min­i­mum of four votes for the or­di­nance to pass on its first read­ing. Al­der­man Lee John­son was ab­sent from the meet­ing.

Kinslow said he nor­mally does not vote on coun­cil mat­ters but did in this case so the restau­rant owner could have the op­por­tu­nity to ap­ply to the state Al­co­holic Bev­er­age Con­trol Ad­min­is­tra­tion Di­vi­sion for the li­cense.

The sec­ond of three read­ings on the or­di­nance is sched­uled for the coun­cil’s meet­ing Mon­day.

Kinslow said the sale of al­co­hol in south Se­bas­tian County is a “hot but­ton is­sue” and that pas­sage of the or­di­nance in Green­wood would not be a mea­sure of how the rest of the district would vote on al­co­hol sales.

“I think the wet is­sue will meet more re­sis­tance than the pri­vate club is­sue,” he said.

Re­tired Green­wood den­tist James Burgess leads a group op­posed to the or­di­nance and to al­co­hol sales. Op­po­nents are cir­cu­lat­ing pe­ti­tions and writ­ing let­ters ask­ing Green­wood al­der­men to vote down the or­di­nance on its sec­ond read­ing, he said.

Burgess said he op­posed al­co­hol sales be­cause the Bi­ble speaks against con­sump­tion of al­co­hol, it can lead to other drugs and crime, and al­co­hol sales don’t nec­es­sar­ily lead to eco­nomic growth.

He noted that the restau­rant site is on the Arkansas 10 Spur, which is a busy street in Green­wood, is within 1,000 feet of two churches and just down the street from a rest home where some res­i­dents have drug and al­co­hol ad­dic­tions.

If the vote on al­co­hol were put to the Green­wood district, Burgess said he felt “very strongly” that it would not pass.

Tan­ner said al­co­hol sales would help gen­er­ate taxes by at­tract­ing busi­nesses to the area.

Al­co­hol sales would be a boost to the Bar­ling econ­omy, said Ivy Owen, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Fort Chaf­fee Re­de­vel­op­ment Au­thor­ity. He said al­co­hol sales would make it eas­ier for the re­de­vel­op­ment au­thor­ity to mar­ket the Chaf­fee Cross­ing land in Bar­ling be­cause it would make the prop­erty more at­trac­tive to restau­rants and ho­tel de­vel­op­ers.

The re­de­vel­op­ment au­thor­ity owns the land within Bar­ling city lim­its that once was part of Fort Chaf­fee but was de­clared sur­plus by the U.S. De­part­ment of De­fense and re­leased for civil­ian use.

A group of de­vel­op­ers in 2011 con­sid­ered de­vel­op­ing a mall on 90 acres of Chaf­fee Cross­ing land in Bar­ling that would have 70 stores with ma­jor an­chor stores and that would em­ploy 700 peo­ple.

De­vel­op­ers said key to at­tract­ing up­scale restau­rants and ho­tels to the area would be the abil­ity to sell al­co­hol, which could ac­count for as much as 25 per­cent of a busi­ness’ rev­enue.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

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