Board to consider distance in language of beer permit

By Bill Short

The Oakland Board of Mayor and Aldermen will consider a proposed ordinance this month that would establish the required distance from residences that beer sales would be permitted.

Board members have asked Mayor Scott Ferguson to put the question on the agenda for their Sept. 20 regular monthly meeting.

Acknowledging that there is an “issue with the wording” of the town’s beer permit, Ferguson said at the board’s Aug. 16 meeting that he had asked City Planner Chris Pate to do some research on it. The mayor said the beer permit contains a statement regarding the distance from a residence that beer sales would be allowed.

“As far as research has shown,” he noted, “there’s nothing that the board has voted on to implement that rule. There’s nothing to support it, as far as an ordinance, and it could not apply.”

If he has correctly read the Oakland Municipal Code, Pate said, the board would need to approve both the form and language of the beer permit application.

Ferguson asked the board members to indicate whether they want to “strike” the distance language or include it in the permit.

“We can put that on the agenda for next month,” he said. “We’ll have research done, and then we’ll address it at that time.”

In response to a question by Alderman Chuck Wombough, the mayor said the distance language would have to be approved in two readings of the proposed ordinance if the board decides to retain it.

Alderman John Evans said he would like to see that process begin at the Sept. 20 meeting.

When Wombough wondered whether the board can establish its own distance requirements, Evans said he thinks City Attorney Chris Patterson has to research that.

But because it has been his experience that the distance requirements differ among the towns where he has worked, Pate said he believes it is a matter of “municipal discretion.”

“Now, when you have liquor by the drink, that does change some aspects of your beer provisions,” he acknowledged. “But I would really need to research those and possibly give them to the city attorney on those issues.”

Noting that the state approves the distance requirements for the sale of liquor by the drink, Pate said they may be greater or lesser than those for beer sales.

Alderman Karl Chambless said the board needs to know what its “parameters” are, and Evans agreed.

Wombough said he believes the major issue is whether the board wants to include certain language regarding how far away from residences that alcoholic beverages can be sold.

“We’ve got several subdivisions that have commercial property on the front end of them that will eventually have something in there,” he said. “And right now, there’s no protection for them if they don’t want beer or liquor or whatever sold in front of their property.”

Patterson said he was not sure it would be appropriate to include a distance requirement in the proposed ordinance, unless the board gives him some direction for preparing it.

The city attorney said the ordinance must be officially advertised with a legal notice in the newspaper. But Alderman Maggie Powers said that is required only before the final reading.