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In called meeting, China Grove shifts slightly on proposed alcohol law

By Josh Bergeron
josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

CHINA GROVE — With a majority of members opposed to the idea, the Town Council on Monday backed away from a proposal to allow alcohol sales during public events.

The China Grove Town Council seemed to come to a consensus that alcohol sales shouldn’t be allowed at events such as Farmers Day. Discussion about alcohol sales came during a called meeting in which Mayor Lee Withers said he didn’t intend for board members to vote on the proposal. Instead of emailing and calling one another, Withers said he hoped board members could thoroughly discuss their thoughts on a proposed alcohol ordinance.

Board members have said they’ve received significant input about the ordinance outside of meetings. However, board members expressed disappointment that more people haven’t shown up during scheduled town council meetings.

Originally, the ordinance would have allowed alcohol sales during special events held on public property, at the community building after being approved by town staff and within a permitted dining area that’s located on a sidewalk, street or “right-of-way” area in the central business district between 10:30 a.m. and 2 a.m.

The latest version of the ordinance splits itself into specific options. On Monday, the majority of board members seemed to only favor allowing alcoholic beverages inside of the China Grove Community Building. However, no vote was taken, which delays the ordinance to a fourth meeting.

After some talk among council members about the ordinance, Mayor Pro Tem Steve Stroud was the first to express his opposition to allowing alcohol sales and consumption in public spaces, regardless of whether it occurs in a roped-off area.

“We can beat the horse to death, but there’s three of us who are not going to vote for public consumption,” Stroud said. “So those options should be off the table.”

The group of council members who have expressed opposition to consumption in roped-off areas on public property include Stroud, Brandon Linn and Charles Seaford. China Grove’s town government is organized in a way that doesn’t allow the mayor to vote on matters before the town board. As a result, Stroud, Linn and Seaford would have been a majority.

Seaford’s opposition is partially based on public opinion, he said.

As Seaford and Linn spoke about their opposition, Withers repeatedly mentioned that there wouldn’t be a vote taken on Monday. He encouraged board members to express their opinion. Withers said there hadn’t been enough discussion about the matter.

“I think that it’s important for us to hammer this out and get a general consensus,” he said.

Board members who seemingly favor sales and consumption during town events didn’t speak extensively about their opinions.

Regardless of what happens, Withers has stressed that the Town of China Grove wouldn’t be endorsing the ability for residents to drink freely on sidewalks. He said it’s likely that during the Town Council’s December meeting, it would vote to allow consumption in the China Grove Community Building.

Town Manager Ken Deal compared allowing alcohol sales in the community building to a practice recently approved by the Rowan County Board of Commissioners.

At West End Plaza, the former Salisbury Mall, county commissioners have voted to allow beer and wine at events in an events center with stringent conditions.

In other business from Monday’s meeting:

• The town council discussed a number of economic development issues.

Town Council members specifically focused on whether China Grove has available space and infrastructure for new industry. Similar to the alcohol ordinance, board members didn’t vote on an item.

At parts of the discussion, Town Council members discussed whether it would be beneficial to construct a speculative building, whether the town could pay for an expansion of water and sewer and if specific areas of town should be the focus for new businesses.

• Council members discussed a lack of interest in the town’s parks board.

There are several vacancies on the board, which hasn’t met for months. Deal said the town needs an active board in order to obtain grants related to parks.

Town Council members questioned whether they should slightly change the requirements in order to allow more citizens to be on the parks board.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

 

 

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