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State ABC board denies proposed Cleveland liquor store

SALISBURY — The State ABC Board denied a controversial proposed liquor store in Cleveland on Wednesday.
The Salisbury-Kannapolis ABC Board started developing a plan for an expansion at a Cleveland strip mall on Statesville Boulevard in September, but dozens of residents emailed and turned out at Wednesday’s hearing in Raleigh to oppose the store.
Mike Herring, an administrator for the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, said the board found against the expansion for the same reason it did in 2003.
“ … That an ABC store in Cleveland would have an adverse effect on the health, happiness and general well being of the citizens in Cleveland,” Herring wrote in an email.
He added the commission received dozens of emails from residents who opposed the matter. Four of the county’s five commissioners also sent notices objecting to the proposed?store.
Terry Osborne, general manager of the local ABC operation, said he didn’t hear any opposition to the project until about two weeks ago.
That’s when the emails started.
Last week, Osborne said, a resident handed him a petition with more than 500 signatures opposing the project.
“I think it was a cross section. I do know a large number of them were from churches,” he said. “A lot of people go to church. I think it was an across-the-board thing. I don’t think it was one group.”
But both supporters and critics packed the commission chambers Wednesday.
“It was standing room only,” Osborne said.
Dozens of emails were submitted as part of the public record of objections for the project during the presentation.
Most ran along the same discourse.
“I think it is incredibly irresponsible of the government to want to put in an ABC store right next to a pediatrician’s office. I?have six children and I would definitely find a different doctor to see just so my children wouldn’t be exposed to the type of people who visit ABC stores,” Cleveland resident Daniel Olds wrote in an email on Nov. 23.
A few minutes later, Denise Newman, another resident, echoed the arguments.
“The ABC store you are wanting to put in our town is just a few steps from a pediatric office, dentist office, church, daycare and Christian school. We do not want to expose our children and grandchildren to that kind of business,” she wrote.
Several emails mentioned ABC?stores in other towns within driving range.
Rowan County Commissioner Chairman Jim Sides wrote a letter on behalf of the board and urged the board to turn down the application.
“Information I was given by (Osborne) indicates that there is no major push by local businesses, individuals or community leaders for placement of this store,” Sides wrote. “There does appear to be a small group of individuals who are pushing this initiative, but I would encourage you to strongly question their motives.
“I would also suggest further investigation into those who are pushing for specific property to be leased for this proposed store. I would elaborate on this issue personally, but will not do so in this email.”
Tax records show the property is owned by Third Creek Development Corporation. The Secretary of State’s website lists Claudia Register, a Cleveland resident, as the president of the corporation.
Sides said the board had also not conducted a formal economic study on the impact of the ABC store.
“I would think that this would be one of the first things the local ABC Board would do before approaching your commission with such a request,” he said.
The chairman also said the local board was split on the project with member Linda Lowman opposing the expansion.
Sides said the county used to be the primary authority for appointing local ABC board members, but said the city convinced Sen. Fletcher Hartsell to craft legislation dividing the appointments among the city, county and Kannapolis.
Sides said the county commissioners could push for state legislation to give Rowan County more of a say on the ABC board.
“The Board of County Commissioners now makes one appointment, the city of Salisbury makes one appointment, and the city of Kannapolis makes the last appointment. The Board of County Commissioners may in the future consider requesting a local bill to restore our three appointments, thus making it a five member board and restoring the balance of control based on distribution,” he wrote.
One of the arguments, Osborne said, that helped sway the state board was that an ABC store in Cooleemee was “breaking even,” and would be detrimentally effected if the Cleveland store was built.
Osborne said supporters of the ABC project could apply again in the future, but the state board would need to see “significant” economic growth to justify the store.
Still, Osborne said, he spoke with dozens of impassioned residents about the project and thinks the county came away with a better education and greater appreciation for the commission’s process.
“If anything, I was very pleased with that outcome today,” he said.

Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246.

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