Unicoi town officials start work on package store ordinance

Brad Hicks • Nov 17, 2012 at 10:10 PM

With the recent passage of a referendum to allow package stores within the limits of the town of Unicoi, town officials have begun the process of collecting information to develop its package store ordinance.

Town Recorder Larry Rea said Friday that the planning commission will take the lead in discussions pertaining to package stores, and it will be providing information and making recommendations to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

Town Mayor Johnny Lynch said that after the Thanksgiving holiday, the planning commission would likely hold a called meeting to outline zoning and other regulations to go along with the town’s ordinance and develop a packet to submit to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen for its vote. Lynch said he hopes this packet is ready for the board’s vote by its December meeting.

Before becoming effective, the town’s ordinance would have to be approved by the board on two readings. Lynch said approval of the second reading could come in January unless called meetings are held to expedite the process. After the second reading is approved, the town will announce an effective date for its ordinance. From this effective date, the town would have 60 days to respond to applications from interested retailers.

“I’m thinking the time frame on this is probably February before we actually start giving the Certificate of Compliance to the state, and that ... is when the clock starts,” Lynch said.

Rea also said the town will look to model its own package store ordinance after those in nearby communities, in particular Jonesborough’s, which passed in early 2011, and Elizabethton’s proposed ordinance, which passed its first reading earlier this month. Like Elizabethton, a referendum to allow package store within the town of Unicoi’s limits passed by a majority vote in the Nov. 6 general election.

“Most of our information that we’ve gotten actually comes from our neighbors, Elizabethton and Jonesborough,” Lynch said.

Elizabethton’s and Jonesborough’s package store ordinances share a number of similarities. Both specify that those applying to open retail liquor stores must comply with state and town regulations and outline what could lead to revocation of a store’s license. The ordinances both state, among other regulations, that retail packages stores can only sell alcoholic beverages, can only sell during hours provided in state law and cannot sell on several holidays. Both also prohibit amusement devices within the stores, specify that sales must be completed within the store’s interior and prohibit the consumption of alcohol on the store’s premises.

But while both of the ordinances specify the distance a retail liquor store must maintain from the nearest portion of any church, school, day care, public playground or park and public recreational facility, the distances differ. The Elizabethton ordinance states this distance must be at least 100 feet, while the Jonesborough ordinance states the distance must be at least 200 feet. As it stands now, Elizabethton’s ordinance does not specify the number of stores that could be located within the town’s limits. In its ordinance, Jonesborough allowed one store for every 3,000 residents. Jonesborough also says package stores can be located in B-3 commercial zones within a Retail Liquor Store overlay zone created by the town.

Lynch said the town of Unicoi has received several calls from people interested in opening a package store in the town since passage of the referendum.

“There’s people calling us right and left, and I wish we could be more informative about this thing but, right now, we’re still in the process of getting it ironed out,” Lynch said.

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