ABC chairman voices concerns over alcohol privatization

By Benjamin Cohn

Weaverville – Last Monday, the Weaverville Town Council heard about an attempt by the state legislature to take local ABC stores and turn them over to the counties.

First, during the meeting’s public comment portion of the meeting, resident Thomas Veasey made a pitch for including a commercial kitchen in the new Lake Louise Community Center. “I found that it’s required to have a commercial kitchen that you need a worktable, stainless steel, a refrigerator that’s rated for that and a dishwasher,” Veasye said. “I’ve done the legwork, I put those prices in there [talking about a document he gave to council members]. Some different combinations are highlighted. In total, it comes out to nowhere near $50,000” citing the cost according to a proposal the town received.

Weaverville Town Manager Selena Coffey then covered items on the consent agenda, reporting the town’s monthly tax collection as “97 percent… which is right on target”. She then asked Town Council to approve a tax release of “$26,100 in value in real property, which is 99 dollars and 18 cents to be released from the levee, and that’s due, again, to a tax exemption.”

She also presented a motion recognizing Earth Day and Arbor Day as taking place on April 22 and April 26 respectively. Her final item announced informational sessions offered by the town to explain and receive input on its new land use policies. These two meetings took place on Thursday, March 21 from 12 – 3 pm and on Tuesday, March 26 from 5 – 8 pm.

Town Council voted unanimously to approve Coffey’s consent agenda. Coffey then delivered her monthly report, which included two projects planned for the Main Street Nature Park, new stairs and the construction of an outdoor stage.

Coffey acknowledged Tania Dozier, Finance Director, for coordinating a town-wide shred day with State Employee’s Credit Union planned for the morning of May 11, 9 am to 12 pm.

The most interesting news the council heard was from Rob Chason, chairman of Weaverville’s ABC Board, who spoke to Town Council in opposition to “bills pending in both the NC House of Representative and the NC Senate that would mandate the merger of local ABC boards … into a consolidated county ABC board,” according to the meeting’s agenda.

“The larger of the two issues is privatization, which has been brought up from time to time in North Carolina. It’s never really gained any ground, but we’re starting to see that it’s beginning to gain ground,” Chason said.

“[It] would mean we would be much like South Carolina or Florida, where it’s not a ‘controlled state,’ if you will. It’s sold in grocery stores and other outlets. In that scenario, the profits would no longer go to the town. It would also mean more outlets would be available where alcohol could be purchased.” It further means that counties like Madison County, which still prohibits liquor sales better known as “dry counties,” would now be “wet” without a vote of the residents.

Chason attempted to link the creation of more places to purchase alcohol with the need for emergency healthcare services, saying that “emergency room visits went up significantly based on alcohol abuse” after similar legislation was enacted in Washington State. He did not provide the name of the study from which he found the information he presented.

Dry Ridge Museum Chairperson Jan Lawrence spoke at length to the council regarding her plans for the upcoming Dry Ridge Museum to be located in the new Lake Louise Community Center.

“Our target groups in a new location would be the families that come to Lake Louise, the tail-gate groups on Wednesday [and] school groups,” she said. “We’ve had clubs come in, and we’ve gone to clubs. With our new location, it would be so much easier for these groups to get in, the handicap accessibility and the parking,” Lawrence said.

Planning Director James Eller delivered a presentation advocating the rezoning of property at 21 and 30 Red Cole Drive in Weaverville from commercial (C-2) to residential (R-3). The motion voted unanimously to approve the rezoning and no public comments were offered.

Jennifer Jackson, the town’s attorney, addressed an ongoing situation involving the sale of property located at 13 Central Avenue popularly known as the old bus garage. Jackson put forth a fixed sales agreement for the property to be “sold in as-is condition” through a cash-only sale. The board approved Jackson’s document.

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Clint Parker

Publisher & Editor Weaverville Tribune

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