Petition under way to allow package stores in Elizabethton

John Thompson • Mar 28, 2012 at 1:34 PM

ELIZABETHTON — A businessman has started an effort that could result in retail sales of liquor and wine in Elizabethton.

Billy Chappell is collecting signatures of city residents who are registered voters in order to place a referendum on the November municipal election. The referendum would allow the voters to decide whether package stores should be allowed in the city.

“We have just gotten approval from the election commission and we have just started collecting signatures,” Chappell said Wednesday. He said his goal is to collect 500 signatures.

Tracy Harris, administrator of elections for Carter County, said state law requires that a petition must have 10 percent of the total vote in the last gubernatorial election in order for a referendum to be placed on the ballot. In the 2010 election there were 3,544 people who voted in the governor’s race. That means Chappell must obtain 354 valid signatures to get the referendum on the ballot.

Chappell said he is shooting for 500 signatures to cover those that are illegible, or signatures that can’t be counted because the signer is not registered to vote or does not live in the city.

Chappell said he has a personal interest in the petition drive. He is a businessman with property that would make a good location for a package store. Chappell has rental and retail businesses in Carter and Washington counties. He owns the shopping center on West Elk Avenue that rents space to the Lighthouse Tobacco and Mini Mall.

Chappell said he also wants to see that tax dollars remain in the city. He said those dollars are now being lost to Johnson City, as most Carter County residents must drive to Washington County to make their liquor and wine purchases.

“This will provide a new source of revenue for Elizabethton,” Chappell said. He said the problem is made worse by a state law that prevents grocery stores from selling wine.

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