It’s “last call” tonight for any opposition to an ordinance that would allow off-premise license holders to start selling beer at 8 a.m. on Sundays.
The City Commission publicly debated the issue for the second time Aug. 18. The measure passed 2-1 with only three of the five commissioners present. Mayor Jeff Banyas and Commissioner Jane Myron voted for the measure. Commissioner Ralph Van Brocklin opposed the move. Vice Mayor Phil Carriger and Commissioner Clayton Stout were not in attendance.
Van Brocklin said at that meeting that people have plenty of time to buy alcohol and extending the hours could be furthering alcohol use around recreational activities. He also said any new revenues from earlier sales would be negligible.
Stout, who voted to move the ordinance along on first reading has said he would speak with Johnson City Police Chief John Lowry and local religious leaders before making a final decision.
Part of the argument for changing the hours is that businesses located near Sullivan County and the Bristol Motor Speedway were losing dollars to nearby stores located just across the county line.
City Manager Pete Peterson said several businesses had requested the action and the ordinance was generated by city staff. He said when these off-premise license holders cannot start selling beer until noon, which is how the current city ordinance reads, its results in the loss of sales and revenues to Johnson City’s corporate citizens and its tax collections, he said.
Jennifer Berven, with the Washington County Anti Drug Coalition, presented commissioners with some fact sheets on alcohol use and made her plea against the ordinance at the last meeting, citing that businesses selling alcohol and beer are some of the few that have flourished in the economic downturn.
Mountain Home Neighborhood Association President Rhonda McSwain said Wednesday that she has emailed all commissioners requesting the final vote be delayed in order to invite community feedback. In this case, a public hearing is not required, but McSwain said that policy should be changed.
“I spoke with Mayor Banyas,” she said. “He was hesitant, but he did say he would discuss the possibility of delaying the vote with other commissioners. I’m really surprised they would not want public input.”
Commissioners also will consider changing city policy that currently requires the city manager, finance director, fire chief, police chief, planning director, public works director and water/sewer director to reside within the city limits.
If approved, the amended policy would not require any city employee promoted to one of these positions to live within the city limits, with the exception of the city manager.
Commissioners also will consider the initial process for retaining architectural services for the purpose of converting the existing Seniors’ Center for use by the city. The new Memorial Park Community Center, which will house senior programming, is set for completion next year.