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City Council meeting deals with touchy issues with finesse
Posted By Bill Larson On Friday, October 7, 2011 @ 9:55 am In Politics | No Comments
Clarksville, TN – The Clarksville City Council met for their regular meeting last night where they tacked a host of issues; including the the Expansion of the Winn Materials Barge Port, creating a capital project for repairs to the Smith-Trahern mansion, and a proposal to expand the number of Package Stores allowed in the city.
The Barge Port was approved, the Capital Project for Smith-Trahern Mansion was approved, and the expansion of the liquor establishments was rejected. Read on for much more!
First up on the Agenda was the public comment period.
Barbara Brown spoke in support of the Smith-Trahern Capital Project. She referenced her 26 years in the community, then gave the council a short history of the Smith-Trahern Mansion. The Mansion is managed by the Family and Community Educators of Montgomery County, and is supported by University of Tennessee’s Agricultural Extension Office. Together they use the mansion to practice and teach research base information from the University of Tennessee, Land Grant College.
Mrs. Brown was followed by Devan Burks, the Fort Campbell soldier who approached City Councilwoman Deanna McLaughlin about getting the 48 year old limit on the number of establishments that the city will certify for Liquor sales increased from 12. Mr Burks wishes to retire to the community and wished to open a liquor store near Exit 1 in Clarksville.
The limit was originally put into place in 1963.
Burks informed the Council that increasing the limit wouldn’t be a safety issue, and would raise much needed revenues for the city. “People who go to Liquor stores drink at home…not for drinking and driving ” he said. “Guns really don’t kill people, and I feel the same thing holds true for liquor. Having more liquor stores won’t make more people alcoholics, and doesn’t encourage people to start drinking.”
Burks was followed by Pastor Tommy Vallejos the Care pastor at Faith Outreach Church, who was in opposition to increasing the limit. Vallejos also serves on the Montgomery County Commission. He started out by asking those who opposed increasing the limit to stand, a few people mostly area pastors stood. Vallejos started out talking about his 21 years of military service. “I am speaking for those who have lost loved ones to a crash that was alcohol related, or who have seen their families split apart because of alcohol.”
He then questioned the demand stating that he has not seen long lines at area liquor stores, nor has he received any complaints from residents about a lack of liquor stores in their neighborhoods. Vallejos pointed out the easy availability of alcohol in the Exit 1 area, and also the close proximity to Day Care Centers, Schools, and Churches. “We must ask ourselves what we want our city to look like through the years,” he said.
Then in a reach, Vallejos then suggested that if we increased the limit for liquor stores if that would not then result in the council facing requests to also increase the limit for porn shops, and strip joints in our community as there is a monopoly on them too.
He then challenged statements by several City Council members to their constituents that he perceived as being in support of lifting the limits.
“One council member answered the concerns of one of their constituents by justifying that the city has had a limit on 13 liquor stores within the city limits since 1963, the time of Mayor Crow. And that the population around here was 30,000 but today it is 133,000; and because the land has grown through acquisition and annexes so now we need (to increase the limit) to cover the needs of the larger area and increased population…” he continued “So because we have grown lets give more folks the opportunity to get drunk, and get their drunk on. Lets grow our problems by having making it more accessible to drink or take the drink on the road. Now it’s closer to home so why not go out; when previously they wouldn’t risk a DUI.”
Vallejos then turned to statistics from the Tennessee Department of Safety in a further attempt to link liquor stores to drunk driving, but the statistics show the problem remains steady or declines over the time frame he referenced.
Steve Estep Senior Pastor for Grace Church of the Nazarene was up next. He also opposed a increase in the limit referencing the people in treatment in Montgomery County for substance abuse issues. “It’s a problem that affects a lot of people in our community…In what way, shape or form could it be increasing the quality of life for the citizens of our community to expand the access they have to alcohol,” he asked.
Then after a short recess it was time officially begin the city council meeting.
First up after a slew of routine zoning issues was the barge port vote. This was the issues second reading with the first passing 9-3 with Deanna McLaughlin, Wallace Redd, and James Lewis voting in opposition.
Wallace Redd requested that the ordinance be pulled from the consent agenda which is items that are presumed to be routine and non-controversial and are subject to approval as a group.
Redd was allowed to speak first, and he stated out by requesting the Council vote against the zoning change request. He pointed out that a M2 General Industrial District is considered incompatible with the residential neighborhood located less than 1000′ away.
The zoning ordinance states “The M-2 General Industrial District is established to provide areas in which the principal use of the land is for manufacturing, and other heavy industrial uses that could possibly have an adverse affect on surrounding property. Such uses are not properly associated with nor compatible with residential, institutional, retail business, or light industrial uses. As such, these uses are intended to be confined to a specific location or area where their existence will not adversely affect surrounding uses.”
He then proceeded to argue that the rezoning would indeed affect surrounding uses.
Redd also pointed out that the City of Clarksville had purchased 103.7 acres of land in June, 2004 with the intent to use the site to construct a second water treatment facility for the city. He noted that the City Council at the time had approved the purchase of the land for that purpose and questioned what happened to that intent. He suggested that the council put the zoning issue on hold for a year to give them further time to look at that issue.”
City Councilman Nick Steward was then recognized. He asked Pat Hickey, the General Manager of Clarksville Gas and Water what their intentions for that piece of property were. Hickey responded that the property is upstream from the barge point was purchased before his arrival at CGW. “We don’t have plans right now to build a plant there.” Steward then asked what impact the expanded barge point would have have if a plant was located there, to which Hickey responded, “Because it is up stream, anything that happened at the barge point would not impact that site.”
Redd then asked a follow up question to Mr. Hickey. “Would it have an affect if a Barge with fuel was moved to that side and sank,” to which Hickey responded “Yes in that instance.”
Mayor McMillan then dismissed Mr. Hickey.
Nick Steward was then recognized to allow him to continue his comments. “Having a barge port there does not definitively dictate if property values will increase or decrease.”
Deanna McLaughlin was recognized and said she also supports a delay, “I sat on the Gas and Water Committee for over four years and didn’t know we owned property over there for a treatment plant.” She then referenced the Smart Growth 2030 Plan and stated, “we don’t know if in 20 years we will need another water treatment plant or not.”
Geno Grubbs was recognized and he commented that he knew that we had purchased this land last year during the campaign. Councilman Burkhart had brought it up during a meeting, so the knowledge was there.”
Candy Johnson asked Mr David Riggins from the regional planning commission if they had considered the City’s ownership of this property when considering approving the zoning change for Winn Marine. “And would your decision have changed if you were not aware,” she asked. Riggins responded, “We did not know that there was an ongoing process, or that this was an active process. If we had known that we would have gone right to Mr. Hickey and asked him what his opinion would have been on that; and I think you just heard it.”
Bill Summers was then recognized, “The previous gas and water comittee knew about the land, and as Pat can attest to one of the problems was evidently there was never any water tests done when that land was bought or selected for that. That is about the worst place in the river to draw water out of because of the Red River. Any effort to put a treatment plant there the costs are going to skyrocket because of the additional filtering that would be required to go in there. That is one reason that is probably not a very good place to have selected.”
Councilman Redd was then recognized once again. “If we are not going to put a water treatment plant there, then we own 107 acres and we are probably going to be in the market for selling 107 acres, and you don’t put an M2 zoning right next to property we are going to have to sell.”
A side discussion began about getting City Councilman David Allen a list of properties that the City of Clarksville owns.
Mayor McMillan then called the vote.
The Clerk then read the results 9 yes, 3 no’s, 0 abstained. Deanna McLaughlin, Wallace Redd, and James Lewis voted against the ordinance.
The capital project for the repairs to the Smith-Trahern Mansion was non-controversial, after getting approved by both the Parks & Recreation Committee and the Finance Committee, it was passed by the City Council with little further discussion.
Bill Summers then gave an update for the Gas & Water Committee on the repairs to College Street. Current estimates suggest that the street may be able to be re-opened for traffic in about 3 weeks.
City Councilwoman Deanna McLaughlin was the first to speak on ordinance 28-2011-12 which would have amended the city code relative to the number of retail liquor stores allowed inside of City limits. While the city does not license stores, they do have the ability to grant or deny liquor stores a certificate of compliance which the Tennessee State Alcohol Beverage Commission requires before they will consider granting a state permit allowing Retail Establishments for Off-Premise Consumption.
City Code has limits the issuance of Certificates of Compliance by the City to a total of 12 establishments. The limit was set in 1963.
McLaughlin said she has worked hard to try to find a middle ground, but that those in opposition will not budge at all.
“My intention when I took the original ordinance to the Public Safety Committee was to have a limit on liquor stores but to increase it to open it up to other persons.”She then talks about the availability of beer, and that wine is only available at liquor stores. “This is about free market, it doesn’t have anything to do about religion. I am not endorsing drinking and driving or alcoholism, it’s about free enterprise. I understand the concerns of the ministers that are here and other people. There are all kinds of addictions. We as government aren’t here to impose restrictions on people for various things. I understand that there are people that have alcohol abuse problems or addictions; but there are people who use alcohol responsibly, so should everybody be punished because some people have issues with it. We do not force people to go to liquor stores, it is their choice to do so.”
She then proposed an amendment to raise the limit from 12-18, and to establish a lottery type process to select the people for the new certificates.
She then tried to call police Chief Al Ainsley but Wallace Redd objected to block her from doing so.
Mayor McMillan then recognized Wallace Redd who asked City Attorney Lance Baker what would the process be if the Council votes to approve the ordinance.
Baker stated that the City does not issue. the license, the state ABC does. The city issues a certificate for compliance which is required to go to ABC for a liquor license. ABC will not issue a license without one. The Council voting to approve the expansion does not guarantee anyone a license.
Baker said that the current plan that he supports is to accept applications for certificates of compliance on a first come first serve basis. Mclaughlin has talked about doing it a different way.
“In our view we cannot and should not accept any applications until law passes second reading,” Baker said.
Mayor McMillan recognized Councilman Marc Harris, “This is one of the only laws of 1963 that I could support, how ironic is that” he said. Harris thinks it sets a bad prescidence to for the Council to consider increasing the limit. He thinks it’s too many as it is.
Bill Summers was up next.He stated that he checked the data available on the Tennessee ABC web site and found that Counties which ban package stores show higher DUI and accident rates than counties which do allow them. “I have had three liquor store owners call me, of course they are against this,” he said, “This is going to establish competition. Jeff brought it up at our last meeting. A premium price is being paid on this. You have a black market on liquor permits. You’ve got some individuals who want to try to establish a business. If they are not on the in and pay a premium price for something they could go down to Sylvia’s office and get for free and establish their own liquor store; basically we are becoming an enforcer for a monopoly setup. Over 50 years ago this county decided they wanted to sell liquor, that decision has already been made.”
“I think the market place is going to handle it for you. You are not going to see one on every block.” He then pointed out hypocrisy on the part of those in opposition, “Where is the outrage and concern everytime we add a new bar around here, or a new restaurant that serves liquor by the drink, or a gas station that is going to sell beer. Those are where your problems are. If you talk to the police that’s where they have their issues at as well, not from the person that drives to a liquor store.”
Councilman Joel Wallace was then recognized on the amendment and urges members to vote against amendment.
Mayor McMillan then recognized Councilman Jeff Burkhart who wanted to respond to Bill Summer’s statment about the premium price that consumers pay. He misunderstood Summers and believed that he was suggesting that the business owners pay the price. “The premium price will come even with the expansion.” He feels that the premium price is in the expense of opening a liquor store and doesn’t realize that Summers meant the public pays the price that comes from the city establishing an artificial limit.” He also expressed concern that the expansion would negatively affect existing licensees.
Councilman Redd took Burkhart’s misunderstanding and ran with it.
Summers then was recognized once again, he called on Baker to querry process on limit. Baker says that the council has to establish a process for expansion or he will do licenses on a first come first serve basis. Summers then asks if the Council move to postpone discussion on the ordinance, to which Baker indicates they can.
Summers moves to postpone ordinance.
Harris queries to find out if that prevents it from beign brought up for another year. Baker says no only the main ordinance.
Allen asks what the purpose of the postponement is.
Summers answers that it’s related to establishing a process before bringing it up for a vote.
At this point Summers moves to postphone till next council meeting to give Councilwoman McLaughlin and Baker time to work out the details on the process.
The vote on McLaughlin’s amendment fails 10-2 with Mclaughlin and Summers voting in favor.
The Council turns their attention on the main ordinance.
Johnson asks for a yes or no vote but this would prevent it from being brought back up for a year, this is known as the Wallace Redd rule. Baker thinks that this could be brought up again in under a year provided it significant change from the previous ordinance, such as was a limited increase instead of unlimited.
The vote to postpone fails, and Councilman Lewis moves to call the question
McLaughlin objects to motion as she had been passed over, which the Mayor acknowledged. So she was recognized. Closing the debate McLaughlin states that her original intent was to raise limit not lift it. She asks to call Chief Ansley again but Councilman Harris objects.
So McLaughlin summarizes her conversation with the chief. The issue seems to be increase in drunk driving. Police concern is more with people who leave liquor by the drink establishments and drive home drunk, not with people who go to liquor stores and take it home to drink later.
Candy Johnson then calls question on main ordinance which passes.
The Council then voted on the main ordinance, the results were 9 to 3 with McLaughlin, Wallace, and Summers voting to approve.
Mayor McMillan proposes that the council accept the recommendation of the expert to select the proposal of the Campbell-Tellico group of Knoxville for the purposes of beginning negotiations to for the lease agreement which was unanimous.
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