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BMA starts process to limit liquor stores

At their Nov. 8 meeting, members of the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved on first reading regulations governing retail liquor stores, the establishment of a liquor store overlay zone, and the amendment of the zoning map for a Retail Liquor Store Overlay District.
“No final decisions are being made tonight,” Mayor Kelly Wolfe emphasized.
Recommendations from the meeting will go to the Planning Commission this week, and a public hearing is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 10, 2011, prior to the BMA considering the second and final reading on the issues later that night.
Upon final approval, the Jonesborough Zoning Map will be amended by adding two RLS Overlay District Zones that will be located in areas leaders say provide the best opportunity for the stores to be successful and have the least negative impact on the community.
The underlying zone will be limited to commercial zones allowing retail businesses. The overlay district will be divided into areas labeled RLS Overlay District 1 and Overlay District 2 in order to separate possible liquor store locations in town. Only one liquor store will be allowed in an RLS Overlay District area.
Town Attorney Jim Wheeler agreed the overlay zone is the best method of controlling liquor stores, but cautioned the board to carefully consider the boundaries of such zones.
“A justification will be needed, so be ready to say why one property was included and another one was not.” Wheeler said, pointing out that, if the boundary is arbitrary, future legal disputes could erupt if someone wants to be added to the zone.
Town Administrator Bob Browning advocated for a larger zone, while Alderman Chuck Vest said he favors a medium-size zone. Wheeler reminded them a justification for the zone’s boundary will be needed regardless of its size.
Wolfe said the aldermen’s job is to get the ball rolling, knowing the map may be changed before it is finalized. Vest made a motion to consider property in B-1, B-3 and B-6 zones for the RLS Overlay. Terry Countermine seconded the motion.
Approval of the three actions related to liquor stores was not unanimous, with Jerome Fitzgerald being the only alderman voting against all items.
Following the meeting, Fitzgerald said he does not support liquor stores.
“I didn’t vote for it,” he said. “I can take it or leave it, and I’m going to leave it.”
Fitzgerald said he understands town voters approved the establishment of liquor stores, and it’s the responsibility of the board to regulate them.
“But there are enough votes to regulate them without me. I don’t do liquor. It’s the way I was raised,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s nothing negative. The town has to move forward, and it will with or without me.”
The town will advertise the projected schedule for adoption of the ordinance governing location, number and other considerations regulating retail liquor stores and the issuance of a Certificate of Compliance.
The notice will also establish a date the ordinance will become effective, which will be the first date the town will accept applications.
Wolfe said the public hearing for the liquore stores will also be advertised, and the January BMA meeting agenda will be posted at Town Hall and on the town website. He also asked for patience on the part of town citizens regarding the decisions.
“This is our first time around on this issue, too,” he said. “So we encourage everyone to gain an understanding of the details before they get excited or angry.”