The town of Unicoi Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Monday approved the first readings of several ordinances pertaining to package stores within the town’s limits.
The board unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance outlining regulations concerning license applications, applicants and required state and town procedures for those interested in opening a retail liquor store and other regulations.
A referendum to allow package stores within the town’s limits passed by a majority vote in the Nov. 6 general election.
According to the current ordinance, an applicant must be granted a certificate of compliance from the town then be granted one by the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission.
Applicants must also provide a site plan of the proposed store, including size and shape information and how it may impact its surroundings. Applicants will also need to submit a business plan to the town. The town of Unicoi Planning Commission will review applications before making a recommendation to the board of mayor and aldermen.
The ordinance dictates that only alcoholic beverages can be sold at the retail liquor stores and that sales can only take place during the hours provided in state law.
The town’s retail liquor store ordinance also states that stores must be located at least 200 feet from public locations, such as churches, schools and parks, as well as residences. Stores must be at a minimum of 1,800 square feet and, unless an exception is made upon petition, can have only one entrance for use by the public.
Several ordinances dealing with zoning were approved upon first reading. One such ordinance sets up three sub-district overlay zones in which liquor stores can be located. One zone is proposed for the area off the Tinker Road Exit, another is proposed for the area off Exit 32 and the third would be for the northern area of the town along Unicoi Drive.
According to the town’s ordinance, only one store can be located in each of these zones and a maximum of two stores can be located in the town unless modified. Town officials can make unscheduled visits to stores, and the ordinance states that a license can be revoked for failure to comply with regulations.
The ordinances will be up for second reading in January and, if approved at that time, would take effect Feb. 4.
The board also heard from Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley, who is seeking financial assistance from the town to place an officer in Unicoi Elementary School following last week’s school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
“We absolutely have to take care of our children and grandchildren (who go) to school,” Hensley said. “My intention is to do whatever it takes to take care of those children.”
Grant funding through the state’s Safe Schools program, which funded student resource officers at Unicoi County High School and Unicoi County Middle School, was previously lost, but Hensley absorbed these costs into his department’s budget to keep the officers in place. He said Erwin Mayor Doris Hensley is now working with Erwin Police Chief Regan Tilson to get officers in Rock Creek Elementary School and Unicoi County Intermediate School through the end of the school year. Hensley said he will work with the county to bring an officer to Temple Hill Elementary School.
“I do not have enough officers to put in the schools and put on patrol as it is right now,” he said. “I do not have that kind of manpower.”
While Hensley said he expects federal funding to eventually become available for enhancing school safety, he said the estimated salary of bringing in a trained officer to serve as the student resource officer for a full year would be $27,700 excluding insurance and other benefits.
“These officers have to be top-notch officers,” Hensley said. “They have to be certified officers, physically and mentally able to take care of a situation should something like this happen in one of our schools. We can’t have a volunteer officer do this. It absolutely has to be a certified officer.”
Hensley said he would like to have the officer in place after the Christmas break and in the school through the remainder of the school year. The board opted to allow the cost of the officer come out of its budgeted $90,000 annual donation to the sheriff’s department. Board members stated this can be revisited if necessary.
“I just feel confident that that’s something that we’ve got to do,” Hensley said. “We cannot, a community this small, cannot survive something like this that happened in Connecticut, and it could happen here just as well as it could up there.”