Cheers erupted from the crowd at the Board of Commissioners meeting last week, after a motion for a beer and wine package license for Mr. Ankit Patel died due to lack of a second. The license was sought for a yet-to-be-built store with the proposed location on Highway 74 between Old Alabama Road and Harvey Street. Several residents spoke against the granting of the license during the meeting, which was standing room only.
“Aren’t we putting the cart before the horse?” said Cindy Wright, who lives across the street from the proposed location. “This is not what we want for our community. I have lived there for 22 years and I do not want this. Please listen to us.”
Five other citizens spoke against the issue, stating that it was a residential neighborhood with mainly elderly and small children and they feared a store selling alcohol would be dangerous for the area, also noting there is another store (Sunnyside Grocery) just down the road. Many noted they fear that the intersection of the road is already a dangerous one and there would be an increased potential for traffic accidents. In addition to those who spoke, one citizen presented the board with a petition with over 300 signatures of those in the area against the matter.
Before making the motion to approve, Commissioner Steve Hudson offered an explanation for his decision.
“As commissioners we cannot always vote the way we want to. We have rules we have to follow. Those rules are state laws and county ordinances. As for the building, it does not have to be there, but must be up within 180 days, so they may not get the building built and the license would be void. Another question I think the business owner will have to answer is will he have customers if he builds this. But, that is a decision he will have to make, we can’t make that for him. We can’t say a guy can’t put a store there because there is one right down the road. In the past when we have gone against our ordinances, we have been sued every time and we have had to go back and issue the decision we should have made in the first place…The location is 344 feet from the church, the ordinance says it has to be at least 300 feet. His background check is clear. In my opinion, we have no option but to issue the license and I put that in the form of a motion.”
However, neither Commissioner Ralph Ellington, nor Commissioner Christopher Biggs offered a second. Commissioner Frank Spraggins was absent due to having knee surgery earlier in the month. Hudson’s motion died for lack of a second.
Commissioner Biggs did offer a motion to table the decision until the matter can be investigated further; in the meantime he encouraged the business owner and community to come together and work out their differences. The motion to table was approved unanimously.
In other business, the board selected Grant Specialties of Georgia Inc., to be the grant administrator for the CHIP grant. The CHIP grant is similar to the CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) which the county has been awarded before for projects such as the redevelopment in Lincoln Park. The funding from that grant was used to rebuild or renovate ten homes located on Solomon Street. However, a CHIP grant can be used anywhere in Upson County and does not have to stay on one street or in a particular neighborhood. The board approved the submission of the CHIP grant application in November. If awarded, the grant could be for as much as $306,000.