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Board begins shaping package store ordinances

The Erwin Board of Mayor and Aldermen held its second work session earlier this month to discuss governing package stores and liquor-by-the-drink in the town.
Referendums to allow liquor-by-the-drink and package stores in the town passed during the Nov. 4 election. Liquor-by-the-drink passed with a 760-552 margin, while the package store referendum passed with a 776-534 margin.
Package stores dominated most of the discussion during the Dec. 19 work session, as the board reviewed the sequence of events that individuals wishing to open a package store must follow, as well as potential ordinances that will have to be passed by the BMA in the future.
Passing the ordinances will be the first step in the process of bringing package stores into the town, according to information discussed during the meeting. Applications will become available to interested parties 10 days after the passing of the ordinance.
To open a package store in the town, individuals must submit an application and pay a non-refundable $500 application for a certificate of compliance. The application will then be reviewed by the city recorder and other town staff for completeness. Should the application be incomplete, town officials will notify the applicant of the deficiency. The application will not be considered “submitted” until it is complete, according to information distributed at the meeting.
Some of the other steps in the process stipulate that the applicant must advertise his intent to open a package store in three consecutive issues of a newspaper of general circulation.
Once the application is complete, the Erwin Police Department will perform an investigation of the applicant which will be used in determining whether or not the applicant receives a “Certificate of Good Moral Character” from the town. This certificate must be approved and signed by either the mayor or three town aldermen.
Once the certificate is received, the applicant may then apply to the state for a license from the Alcoholic Beverage Commission (ABC). Should the applicant be denied a license by the state, the certificate awarded by the town will become null and void.
Also, the town will advertise when the BMA will meet to consider the applications submitted. At that meeting, the town will consider the applications based on the criteria of the ordinance. During a work session in November the board discussed limiting the number of certificates for package stores to two.
The town will also have the authority to inspect retail package stores located in the town at any time.
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Zoning for package stores was also discussed during the Dec. 19 meeting. A sample ordinance reviewed by the board allowed package stores in B-2, B-3, B-4 and M-1 zones. Michael Borders, the town’s building inspector, said the B-3 zone is in the “heart of the downtown district”. The B-4 zone is an outlying area of the downtown district and B-2 is the Main Avenue corridor traveling from downtown toward the north end of town. The M-1 zone is an industrial zone.
“I would like to keep package stores out of the downtown area,” Mayor Doris Hensley said during the meeting. “We just don’t have enough parking.”
Former Erwin Mayor Russell Brackins agreed, saying he believed a package store would not be economically feasible downtown and that locations near exits on Interstate 26 would make more business sense.
Alderman Michael Baker voiced his disagreement, but the rest of the board supported Hensley’s recommendation and B-3 and B-4 zones were removed from the ordinance.