BOC con­tin­ues al­co­hol de­bate

The Covington News - - Local - GABRIEL KHOULI Staff Re­porter

The New­ton County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers con­tin­ued to work on an al­co­hol or­di­nance to al­low for res­tau­rant sales of al­co­hol, but the ques­tion of how close al­co­hol can be sold to churches, li­braries and schools re­mained un­solved Mon­day.

The state min­i­mum re­quires al­co­hol-sell­ing es­tab­lish­ments to be at least 300 feet from cer­tain build­ings, but Com­mis­sioner Mort Ewing re­quested pre­vi­ously the county have a stricter min­i­mum of 500 feet.

Com­mis­sioner Nancy Schulz said Mon­day that a 500-foot min­i­mum could cause is­sues in the Al­mon and Salem road cor­ri­dors, which are two ar­eas be­ing con­sid­ered for al­co­hol sales. By-the-drink al­co­hol sales will not be al­lowed county wide. How­ever, the or­di­nance would also af­fect pack­age sales, which are al­lowed county wide; they cur­rently fol­low the 300-foot state min­i­mum.

The pres­ence of Shiloh United Methodist Church off Al­mon Road and Salem United Methodist Church and Salem Cam- prground off Salem Road could block large sec­tions of those cor­ri­dors from hous­ing restau­rants and limit de­vel­op­ment, Schulz said. For per­spec­tive, Chair­man Kathy Mor­gan said a block on the town square is about 600 feet.

Schulz said she spoke with for­mer state Rep. Denny Dobbs played a part in de­vel­op­ing the state min­i­mum and ac­tu­ally used a lo­cal cir­cum­stance to set the law. Schulz said he mea­sured from Shiloh United to the Rock Store and re­al­ized the store couldn’t sell al­co­hol if the re­quire­ment was greater than 300 feet.

How­ever, Ewing said he still sup­ported more strin­gent reg­u­la­tions.

“I feel that the churches and public li­braries in the county are very im­por­tant of the struc­ture of New­ton County, and I would just hate to see us give in for a com­mer­cial fa­cil­ity that would be serv­ing al­co­hol within 500 feet from a church or public li­brary,” Ewing said.

Mor­gan said that lim­it­ing by-the-drink al­co­hol sales to a hand­ful of more dense ar­eas in the county was al­ready re­stric­tive.

When asked, At­tor­ney Jenny Carter said the board of com­mis­sion­ers could put in a vari­ance process that would al­low busi­nesses to lo­cate closer than the 500 feet in spe­cial cir­cum­stances.

As an ex­am­ple, R.L.’S Off the Square in Cov­ing­ton had to get a waiver be­cause it was too close to First Bap­tist Church, Mor­gan said.

A busi­ness could never lo­cate closer than the 300foot state min­i­mum. The county could also have dif­fer­ent dis­tance reg­u­la­tions for pack­age sales and by-the-drink sales, Carter said.

The dis­tance is mea­sured from the main en­trance of one build­ing to the main en­trance of an­other build­ing.

Mor­gan said she would have the Ge­o­graphic In­for­ma­tion Sys­tems (GIS) depart­ment de­velop a map that would show how dif­fer­ent dis­tance mea­sure­ments would af­fect po­ten­tial de­vel­op­ment.

Al­co­hol fees

The board also dis­cussed al­co­hol fees. Com­mis­sioner Tim Flem­ing said he had re­ceived calls from busi­ness own­ers and a state lob­by­ist who lives lo­cally who ques­tioned the sher­iff’s of­fice back­ground check cost­ing $400.

The fee was based on the eight hours of work and was charged at an over­time rate as the work would be on top of cur­rent du­ties. Carter said over­all fee costs were com­pared to other coun­ties, but they were not bro­ken down on an in­di­vid­ual fee ba­sis.

County Man­ager John Mid­dle­ton said that busi­ness own­ers have proven they are will­ing to an­nex into cities and pay ad­di­tional thou­sands of dol­lars in prop­erty taxes on top of pay­ing thou­sands more for an al­co­hol fee.

The fees are cur­rently pro­posed as $1,300 to­tal for the right to sell pack­age sales and $5,650 for the right to sell al­co­hol by the drink.

Sun­day sales too?

Chair­man Mor­gan said the board has three is­sue be­fore it: by the drink sales, Sun­day by the drink sales and Sun­day pack­age sales.

The board would have to ap­prove an or­di­nance by April 3 in or­der to meet the dead­line for a July vote, while it would have un­til sum­mer if it wanted to put the ref­er­en­dums on the Novem­ber bal­lot.

Sub­mit­ted photo

(Left to right) ATB clar­inets Ken­dra Smith, Lavon­dria Jones, Ayanna Wim­bush and Tayla Reid.

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