Bedford County commissioners continued to express confusion over the status of possible beer sales being grandfathered into Special Character District Overlays within Rural Village Neighborhoods in portions of rural Bedford County. The designations, described as a “zoning tool” by County Zoning Director Chris White, affect convenience stores in the Flat Creek, Bedford, Wheel and Halls Mill communities...
Bedford County commissioners continued to express confusion over the status of possible beer sales being grandfathered into Special Character District Overlays within Rural Village Neighborhoods in portions of rural Bedford County. The designations, described as a “zoning tool” by County Zoning Director Chris White, affect convenience stores in the Flat Creek, Bedford, Wheel and Halls Mill communities.
The issue was discussed Tuesday by the commission’s Rules and Legislative Committee. An update to the “zoning tool” and its affect on beer sales will likely go before the full commission in January.
Property owners must request overlay designations for specific areas. The owners of Sunchaser Market in Flat Creek have requested such a designation, which would allow beer sales although the store is near several churches. Some members of Flat Creek Church of Christ, across the State Highway 82-New Center Church Road intersection from the store, object to beer sales. The state normally requires stores selling beer to be 2,000 feet from churches and schools. The overlays would supposedly exempt overlay areas from that law.
The Tennessee Attorney General’s Office was asked for an opinion on the overlay exemption.
“Because the request seeks legal advice for or on behalf of a local governmental entity, we regret that we are not able to provide the requested opinion,” Andree Sophia Blumstein, the state’s solicitor general, said in response. The letter was received late Tuesday by Rep. Pat Marsh’s office.
“As attorneys for the State, we are precluded from giving legal advice to or for the benefit of local governmental entities or local officials.”
Blumstein urged the county to contact the state’s County Technical Assistance Service, which she said is “specifically authorized” to consult in such matters.
The full commission had approved overlays in general, but not specific areas, at a previous meeting. Commissioner Jeff Sweeney asked the Rules and Legislative Committee on Tuesday to recommend striking the amendment allowing beer sales from the overall overlay ordinance.
Several commissioners said they don’t understand whether they are being asked to totally eliminate beer sales from the proposal or just defer further action until the attorney general’s ruling is revealed. That confusion is enhanced by disagreement on whether a two-thirds majority vote on whether a recommendation for the full commission to reconsider, and remove, the beer sales “verbiage” from the overlay rules was reached at a Dec. 1 Bedford County Planning Commission meeting.
From the minutes of that meeting: “A vote was taken which resulted in 6 yes and 3 no votes. There were 9 members (10 total) present. Motion to reconsider failed for lack of a 2/3 vote. Item is deferred.”
Jennifer Meyer, a co-owner of Sunchaser Market who has urged Bedford County officials to go on and take action on efforts to expand and sell beer at the store, changed her tune somewhat Tuesday.
“You’ve got yourselves in a situation where you don’t know what you’re doing,” Meyer said, emphasizing other areas of the county are potentially affected. “It’s not just us. I’m asking you to wait.”
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