Among the 12 agenda items considered on the first day of the 2013 city planning workshop was a proposal to change the city’s ordinance for alcohol sales.
On Thursday, Mayor Jim Thomas and Councilman Kenneth Shaw said they had received numerous requests from business owners about the city’s restrictions on alcohol sales. Thomas reminded council members they heard appeals by the owners of the Rolling Crab and Chris’ Grill during a recent city council meeting.
The business owners said the city ordinance does not allow them to sell beer or wine due to their business’ proximity to residential areas. Some city leaders suggested allowing waivers for certain businesses, but City Manager Billy Edwards warned against taking that route.
“I would recommend to you very strongly that you not do this on a case-by-case basis,” Edwards said. “You could be creating more problems ahead.”
Thomas agreed but suggested they make some kind of change to the alcohol ordinance that would not restrict future development, particularly for restaurants.
“As we develop (Highways) 84 and 196, we’re going to get more requests (for variance to the ordinance),” Thomas said. “If we don’t change the ordinance, we’re going to restrict development in those areas. ... I think our ordinance should be less restrictive for a restaurant than for a bar.”
Councilman Jason Floyd agreed and offered a compromise change to the current ordinance that the other leaders liked. He suggested adding a caveat to the current alcohol ordinance for businesses with Class 1 and Class 11 alcohol licenses.
Where those businesses, which mostly are restaurants, do not meet the ordinance requirement to be 25 feet from an area zoned as residential or 120 feet from a residence on residentially-zoned property, Floyd suggested they insert a proviso in the ordinance that allows them to sell alcohol but only up to 11 p.m.
After some discussion, the leaders agreed to have City Attorney Linnie Darden draft a revision to the alcohol ordinance that included the caveat.
An additional issue about alcohol sales also was discussed. Thomas and Shaw again said some of the businesses that contacted them wanted to be able to sell package alcohol on Sundays. They suggested a citywide referendum be scheduled for the November election that would allow city residents to decide whether they want package alcohol sales on Sundays.
Thomas said if the voters say “no” to the referendum, city leaders could not be blamed for it. Edwards said if the voters say “yes” to the referendum, it would give city council the authority to create a new alcohol ordinance to govern the sale of package alcohol on Sundays.
Assistant City Attorney Rich Braun said their office would write an ordinance calling for a referendum, which, when approved by the council, would allow the city’s residents to vote on it.
Liberty County residents on the western side of Hinesville already will be voting on a referendum to decide whether they want to be annexed into the city. Edwards said if the 1,200 voting-age residents in the westside area vote for annexation, the city would start police, fire and inspection services immediately. He said providing city water and sewer services and garbage collection would take longer.
Water and sewer lines could be extended to each of the areas, he said, but many of the residents living in these areas already have their own wells and septic tanks, as well as trash service. Thomas said that forcing them to switch to the city’s trash service could put someone out of business.
Councilman Keith Jenkins suggested grandfathering in these residents, so they won’t be forced to tap into the city’s services. Councilman David Anderson suggested providing city services to all new housing or business constructions in newly annexed areas. Edwards suggested they hold several townhall meetings about the proposed annexation to inform affected residents about their options.
Other issues discussed on the first day of the workshop included adding public-works contractor CH2MHill/OMI employees to the city’s insurance policy; a review of the city charter; Hinesville’s presence among Georgia’s top “hub” cities outside Atlanta; proposed changes to the current ordinance requirements for health and fitness clubs; and a new code-enforcement program that provides funds for cleaning up blighted areas.
For more information about Hinesville as a hub city and the new code-enforcement program, read the Wednesday and Friday editions of the Courier.