Commerce residents voted to approve a referendum in November to allow package liquor sales in town. But the process of setting the rules and deciding how the licenses will be granted is more complicated than it might appear. That was part of the discussion at the Commerce City Council’s work session on Monday, Jan. 3.
Shortly after the November election, the city implemented a 90-day moratorium on liquor licenses to allow the town to get its rules in place. That moratorium ends next month, but could be extended if needed.
During the Jan. 3 work session, council members agreed on a number of details including:
•allowing two license holders in the city (one for every 5,000 residents). The city would be able to issue another license when the population reaches 10,001.
•allowing the approved establishments to sell liquor, beer, wine and tobacco products.
•not having minimum inventory requirements.
•requiring a minimum of 1,000-yards between the two liquor stores.
•matching the existing rules for beer/wine package stores regarding distance from schools and churches, as well as the hours the stores can remain open. Commerce Police Chief Ken Harmon noted it will be easier for the city to enforce the rules if they’re consistent.
The council also discussed requiring a 2,500 sq. ft. standalone building, although there was some discussion about “strip mall” facilities.
But a big questions remains: How will the city issue those licenses?
City manager James Wascher said the town could use a lottery system for the applications, or issue the licenses on a first-come, first-served basis.
The first-come, first-served basis would be complicated, since the liquor license applicant would likely have to have property already under contract so the city could see if it meets the zoning requirements and the other liquor store rules being proposed.
“If you don’t have the property, we can’t verify the zoning. We can’t verify anything else,” said Wascher.
That creates a chicken-and-egg situation since developers may not want to secure a piece of property or invest in the project if they haven’t already been approved for the liquor license.
Additionally, Mayor Pro Tem Keith Burchett suggested the city give preference to businesses that have already been established in the city.
“I think it’s only fair to let the ones that have been established for a long time be the ones that get it,” said Burchett.
It’s not clear how the city will decide to move forward with the application process. Mayor Clark Hill asked city staff to focus on the lottery model and the first-come, first served method and make a recommendation to the council.
Other council members asked to see examples from other municipalities that allow liquor stores.
Other business discussed at the council’s Jan. 3 work session were:
•a 2-year contract with Waste Pro for garbage pickup. Wascher said the city is still working through some provisions in the contract.
•2022 ward redistricting based on the results of the 2020 Census. The redistricting map could be approved in February.
•proposed roads for resurfacing using the 2022 Local Maintenance & Improvement Grant including: 580 feet of Rice Street; 545 feet of Spring Street; 1,100 feet of Blue Heron; 370 feet of Harris Street; 1,150 feet of Green Street; 1,190 feet of Hospital Road; 1,235 feet of Lewis Circle; 1,808 feet of Scott Street; and 970 feet of Coles Court Drive. The estimated total cost is $152,116.
•a proposal to reduce the speed limit on part of Mt. Olive Rd. from 45 miles-per-hour to 35-mph. The city will need to have a study done on the change and submit the changes to the Georgia Department of Transportation before it can be enforced using radar.
•appointing Kevin Christopher as Municipal Court deputy judge.
•the regional solid waste management plan for 2021-31.
•a conditional use for a little over ½ acre at 2611 and 2711 on North Elm St. (the vacant building across from Warren’s package store and Presto’s). Applicant Brian Bannister has requested the conditional use so a tire company can use the warehouse facility as a dispatch center and to store inventory, tires and equipment. The Commerce Planning and Zoning Commission recommended a condition that no outside storage be allowed.
•a list of surplus items.