The consideration to reduce the distance rule to sell beer in the county to a zero-footage distance from a church, school, or public gathering place failed at last Tuesday’s Board of …
The consideration to reduce the distance rule to sell beer in the county to a zero-footage distance from a church, school, or public gathering place failed at last Tuesday’s Board of Commissioners’ monthly meeting.
The resolution failed with three ayes and 13 noes. Those voting for the change to zero feet included Commissioners Sylvia Pinson, Tony Smith, and Greg Vick. Commissioners Janice Brothers and Bill Anderson were absent.
The rest of the commissioners voted ‘no,’ citing disapproval from their constituents for changing the rules.
“I want to challenge every one of y’all to go talk to your people—because I can tell you, everybody I talk to is against this,” said Commissioner Drew Hooker.
Commissioner Greg Vick made a motion to alter the consideration and send it to the Regional Planning Commission to study and look at further before the Board of Commissioners voted again.
Vick said, “What we are trying to accomplish here is at some point we have to have some type of zoning regulation if we move forward on this. The correct way to do that is to send it to the Planning Commission and let them draw up these zoning regulations so that we can address all the specific needs. Then we have a very specific thing to vote on as it comes back through the regular process.”
However, this motion did not pass as eight commissioners voted aye, seven nay, and with Hooker giving a pass.
“I know everything would come back to us for a vote but everything just seems cut and dry already…why are mudding the waters to send something to the Planning Commission?” said Commissioner Eric Maddox.
Commissioner Linda Yockey explained package sales are one thing while consumption is another. She said she would like to see this decision be made at the state level and changed to a separate license with one for package sales and another for consumption sales.
“But the way it is right now with a beer license, you have the option to do package sales or over-the-counter or serve. And that’s what the whole problem is. I wish the state could resolve this rather than us arguing every few years about this,” she explained.
A public comments section—held after a long-winded vote by the commission to change public comment requirements—drew people for and against the change.
The petition to change to footage began after owners Bedford Market, Sunchaser's Market, and Halls Mill Market asked to lower the footage requirement in order to give them and other small businesses a “competitive edge.” This would come through their ability to provide additional tax revenue to the county through both retail and tourism growth as well as demonstrating support for community hubs.
Tracy Strassner, an owner of Sunchaser Market, said, “I would say, 13 nights ago, you guys all met and there was a lot of discussion about it’s tough right now for the citizens of Bedford County economically…It’s hard to be a small business these days.”
She emphasized how small businesses and rural village businesses serve as centers for community leaders and new community members alike to come and meet.
“…How do you help small businesses contribute and compete. Because anywhere here in Shelbyville, there is no distance rule. We just want to compete the same way as well as our partners in the other counties,” she said.
Keith Weaver, a founder of Nearest Green Distillery, said, “Tourism is picking up. At the distillery we’re tracking towards a million guests a year by 2026, which will make up one of the top three most visited distilleries in the world.
“But the reason why I’m here in favor of these markets — which actually they’re my evil competition in a way because I can already sell beer and wine and drinks by the glass — but what it has done for tourism has been extraordinary…to drink responsibly, as long as you’re doing that, it’s really been a boom to tourism.”
However, many residents were opposed to the zero-foot change.
Steve Bobo, an elder at the Flat Creek Church of Christ, said he was opposing the fact that they were trying to change the laws. “We’re in the Bible Belt, folks…People move in here and try to change the laws where it allows them to use terms like ‘to complete, to thrive, providing additional tax revenue.’”
Frank Bobo, also from Flat Creek Church of Christ, summed it up, “I’ve been going there 61 years and I’ve never heard a sermon saying the Lord wanted beer sold at Flat Creek Market.”
Another citizen spoke about how he’d lost three siblings to alcoholism, so he saw the selling of beer in the county as a way to encourage alcoholism. “That beer, I’ve lost three siblings to it and I’m strictly against it.”
So, after coming up multiple times over the years, the sale of beer in the county will remain with the 2,000-foot distance rule.
Or, to put it all in the words of Commissioner Hooker, “If you’re going to sit here and support a resolution that a commissioner is not willing to separate out schools — I have heartburn and I’m sure you can tell.
“We need to quit voting the way that the handful of people that show up and continue to bug us want. The problem is that we need to vote for the majority of what the people want.”
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