Granite Quarry addresses potential internet gaming operations

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 7, 2018

GRANITE QUARRY — Internet gaming businesses could be up and running soon in Granite Quarry.

The Board of Aldermen had to update its Unified Development Ordinance on Monday night and decide in what zoning classifications internet gaming would be allowed.

Town Planner Steve Blount explained that as long as the gaming operations are considered legal businesses in the state, the town has to provide some appropriately zoned place where they can operate.

“Since we cannot legally ‘zone something out of existence,'” Blount told the board in a memo, “we need to decide in which classifications it should be allowed and with what types of restrictions we might want/need to apply.”

Blount recommended — and aldermen approved — a text amendment to the UDO that says “electronic gaming operations” will be listed as a conditional use with special restrictions in two zoning districts — highway business and central business.

Here are the restrictions:

• The gaming operation can’t be within 500 feet of another gaming operation.

• Electronic gaming operations will not be permitted within 250 feet of an existing school, kindergarten, church, town park, child care center, bar, nightclub and historic district.

• Gaming operations will not be permitted within 100 feet of a residential structure.

• Alcoholic beverages will not be allowed or consumed on the gaming operation property, including the parking lot.

• The applicant for a conditional use permit and the operator of the gaming operation cannot have been convicted of a felony.

• Hours of operation can be 9 a.m.-2 a.m. daily, including weekends.

Blount said he has fielded three different inquiries about locating internet gaming operations in Granite Quarry.

Aldermen held a public hearing on the text amendment and heard from James Deal, who said he hopes to open an internet gaming center next to the Subway restaurant, which is in a small retail center along North Salisbury Avenue (U.S. 52).

“We’re just hoping you will approve” the text amendment, Deal told aldermen, so he could get word to the landlord from whom he will be leasing.

Former Mayor Mary Ponds also spoke during the hearing, expressing concerns about the businesses possibly being open until 2 a.m. She asked why the required distance between gaming operations themselves was farther than the distance they had to be separated from a school or residence.

Blount said a main reason for the longer distance is an effort to prevent an overwhelming number of them. As for the 2 a.m. closing time, which Alderman John Linker said was also his biggest concern, Blount said the town would have to provide reasons why a business couldn’t be open after 2 a.m.

“For at least two decades,” Blount’s earlier memo stated, “video gaming or gambling has been a controversial problem for state and local governments.

“Each time the N.C. General Assembly adopted a law or regulation attempting to shut down what they considered illegal gambling, the individuals and companies profiting from these businesses found a way to circumvent those rules or find the laws unconstitutional.”

He said the latest challenge “hangs its hat” on General Statute 14-306, exempting “games of skill” from being classified as gambling.

“Since those with higher skill levels are likely to win more often, the argument goes, internet poker-like games should be exempted,” Blount told the board.

Granite Quarry has had internet gaming places in the past but not for several years.

Aldermen conducted some other public hearings Monday night.

After one of them, the board added language to the code of ordinances so that construction mud and debris in public streets can be treated as a nuisance.

Blount said Mayor Bill Feather raised the question, noting that mud and debris are being tracked onto roads from active construction sites. Town ordinances did not appear to address that problem directly, Blount said.

The aldermen’s action Monday adds the following to the list of public nuisances:

“It shall be unlawful for the contractor in charge of a construction project, or lacking said contractor, the property owner on whose land the construction project is taking place, to allow vehicles leaving the site to deposit dust, dirt, mud or construction debris on a public street.”

Violations will result in fines.

After another public hearing, aldermen approved Downtown Development Guidelines, which will help the town be consistent with the Downtown Master Plan adopted in January 2016.

The guidelines are broken down by sections, which include new and infill development, existing building repairs and renovations, existing building replacements, parking lot improvements, landscape improvements and streetscape improvements.

In essence, the action taken Monday adds the Downtown Development Guidelines to the UDO. Blount said it will not be enforced retroactively, meaning existing businesses are grandfathered in.

Two other public hearings were held — one involving a grant application for extending both a water line and Chamandy Drive near the town’s industrial park, the other addressing cul de sacs in commercial and industrial developments.

Aldermen had decided last month to apply for a $500,000 grant from the N.C. Department of Commerce. The public hearing was needed as part of that process.

If OK’d, the grant would go toward extending Chamandy Drive 650 feet and a 12-inch water line the same distance, to serve a town-owned parcel of 16.83 acres.

WJD Cold Storage wants to build a 42,000-square-foot facility on that property. The plant would have a capacity for 3,500 pallets. A second phase would double the capacity increasing the facility to 81,000 square feet.

The initial investment would be $5.6 million. The second phase would increase the total investment to $9.5 million. The Rowan Economic Development Commission has said the project will lead to 40 full-time jobs.

Total cost of the road and waterline extension (from the end of the current Chamandy Drive) would be $507,000. The town would be responsible for 5 percent of a grant, or $25,000.

In a somewhat related matter, aldermen approved a text amendment to the UDO saying cul de sacs will not be allowed in commercial and industrial developments unless approved as a variance by the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

Blount said Feather had asked for a text revision. “I think his concern was initiated by the existing cul de sac located at the end of Chamandy Drive,” Blount said in a memo.

Because of surface damage to roads caused by large, heavy trucks making limited-radius turns in a cul de sac, they should be avoided if possible, Blount recommended.

The present cul de sac at the end of Chamandy Drive should be abandoned if the road is extended to the town property, Blount added, and the rear driveway into Gildan Yarns should be reconfigured to a right angle.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.