ROWLAND — Commissioner Paul Hunt on Tuesday called on Rowland officials to quickly prepare an ordinance to control where establishments serving mixed drinks can be located.
Voters approved the sale of mixed drinks within town limits on March 15 by a vote of 142 to 96. Supporters believe that offering mixed drinks will encourage local economic development and pull tourists and others traveling Interstate 95 and other busy highways into Rowland.
When liquor-by-the drink was approved during the referendum, Rowland already had an ABC store. Beer and wine can also be purchased in retail establishments.
Hunt said that his concern is that a club offering mixed drinks, rather than a restaurant, will open along Main Street.
“I don’t want to see any surprises,” Hunt said. “I don’t want to see something come up that we can’t stop.”
According to David Townsend, the town’s clerk, no one has come forward seeking to open any type of establishment that sells mixed drinks.
Townsend said that any local ordinance would only supplement statewide regulations that govern the operations of establishments selling liquor. The local ordinance can regulate such things as site location, parking and security, Townsend said.
“Places that sell alcohol are regulated by the state,” Townsend said. “Locally we can regulate location and have minor input into other areas.”
Rob Price, the town’s attorney, told the commissioners that if a local ordinance affects zoning a public hearing would have to be held.
Townsend said that Lumberton’s policy governing establishments offering mixed drinks can serve as a model for Rowland.
Townsend believes an ordinance can be put in place within a couple of months.
In other business, the commissioners authorized Townsend to go after every grant he can find that could benefit the town.
“That’s an administrative job,” Commissioner Marvin C. Shooter Jr. said. “I don’t think our permission is needed for him to do that.”
Shooter’s comments were addressed to Mayor James A. Hampton, who had placed on the meeting’s agenda the discussion of three grants he would like to see the town pursue.
They include a state grant that would pay for an additional police officer to assist with drug enforcement along Interstate 95; a Robeson County Parks and Recreation grant that would provide for basketball goals to be placed at yet undetermined sites throughout the community; and a grant from the state Golden LEAF Foundation to help with the cost of renovating a vacant upstairs Town Hall office that could be used to house a municipal office or new business.
“I’m going to pursue these grants and any other grants I can find,” Townsend said after the meeting. “That’s what I was hired to do.”
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.