Sweepstakes cafes must pay fees
By Emily Ford
SALISBURY - Owners of Internet sweepstakes cafes are showing interest in Salisbury, and City Council agreed Tuesday the gaming businesses will not reap the benefit of a business license fee waiver approved this summer.
Earlier this year, the N.C. Court of Appeals deemed sweepstakes legal and ruled that a state law intended to shut down the businesses violated the First Amendment.
Since then, the city's new one-stop shop for development has fielded several inquiries about opening sweepstakes cafes.
City Manager Doug Paris suggested City Council clarify that electronic gaming machines are not exempt from business license fees. The city charges $500 per machine but may increase that amount after comparing the rate next month with other municipalities, some of which charge thousands of dollars per machine.
Council members in June agreed to waive business license fees for one year to encourage new development in the city. But when they granted the waiver, Internet gaming machines were still illegal under state law.
So the council on Tuesday passed a resolution exempting electronic gaming machines from the one-year fee suspension.
By waiving the fee, Salisbury would have been a destination for sweepstakes cafes to avoid the high fees in other cities, Councilman Brian Miller said.
"This corrects an unintended loophole," he said.
Councilwoman Maggie Blackwell asked city staff to prepare a comparison of fees in different cities so council members can determine if Salisbury is undercharging.
Also Tuesday, City Council:
• Agreed to allow the city's new Housing Advocacy Commission to meet monthly rather than quarterly and have two vice chairmen to lead two standing committees.
• Granted John Leatherman's request to extend the period of vested rights through 2017 for the Pinnacle Office Park Phase IV development plan. Leatherman plans to build six office condominiums on the vacant parcel on Jake Alexander Boulevard near South Main Street.
The campus-style development would be similar to Manning Park on Jake Alexander Boulevard East near the American Red Cross.
• Set a public hearing for Oct. 2 to consider changing the solid waste ordinance to reflect the new recycling pick-up schedule - every other week - and clarify where to place the roll-out recycling cart: on the curb, not in the street.
• Agreed to establish a steering committee to study whether the city should offer plan review and building inspections services, now only offered by Rowan County.
Miller will serve as council liaison.
Paris suggested the county's new building inspection director could serve on the committee.
Others interested in serving should contact City Clerk Myra Heard at 704-638-5224 or fill out an application for boards and commissions at www.salisburync.gov .
• Applied for a Salisbury Community Foundation Grant on behalf of the Dixonville Cemetery Task Force.
• Appointed Kelly Alexander to the Salisbury Tourism Development Authority board.
• Heard a complaint from artist Clyde, who uses one name, that city fees are too high. Clyde, who owns six properties but said two have no water meter, dramatically displayed his 26-page monthly bill from the city and compared it to the postcard-sized bill for $5.49 he received five years ago.
"I would throw this away, but you would charge me $7 for a collection fee," he said.
Salisbury residents are paying new fees of $7 a month for garbage and $4.25 a month for stormwater.
Mayor Paul Woodson asked Paris to meet with Clyde.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.