LUMBERTON — The City Council on Wednesday considered additional restrictions on electronic gaming establishments, which are already subjected to heavy fees that have led to litigation.
During the Council Policy Committee meeting, Brandon Love, director of Planning and Neighborhood Services, proposed that the centers operate under a conditional-use permit that would restrict the number of machines a business could house to 40 and require that a business be no closer than 500 feet to municipal buildings, churches, residential areas and day-care centers.
The council would need to amend the city’s land-use ordinance, which does not include provisions for electronic gaming centers. It would also limit a gaming center’s hours of operation on Sundays, a restriction that some councilmen thought would hinder the businesses’ ability to make a profit.
“I think we are cutting pretty heavy in some of these businesses,” Councilman Leon Maynor said. “… We charge them for each machine, they have to get a permit each year — I could go either way but I don’t feel quite comfortable limiting the hours.”
The city currently charges $5,000 for a “sweepstakes” business license and an additional $2,500 per electronic gaming terminal. Four city gaming establishments have sued, saying that the city’s privilege license taxes are too high and unconstitutional. That case is headed to the North Carolina Supreme Court.
Police Chief Mike McNeill said he has not had any problems from the existing gaming centers within the city, some of which Love said operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“If we keep going at this, this town is going to look like Bragg Boulevard …,” Councilman John Cantey said. “Is that the way we’re headed?”
Cantey and Councilmen Erich Hackney discussed limiting hours of operation to 1 to 6 p.m. on Sundays as well as between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. on weekdays. Hackney also said he wants to cut the number of machines allowed per business by half and triple the distance required from municipal buildings, churches, residential areas and day-care center.
The amended ordinance will go to the city’s Planning Board and then return to the council for further review. If approved, it would go into effect on June 30, 2013, the same day this fiscal year’s privilege taxes on the machines expire.
Also on Wednesday, the council:
n Set the speed limit on Dartmoor Lane and Nelson Way Street in the Mayfair area to 25 mph. The speed limit for all other streets in Mayfair is currently 25 mph.
— Approved a language policy to ensure people with limited English skills are provided the same access to benefits and services as fluent English speakers. As a member of the Community Development Black Grant program, the city is required to approve the policy every two years.
— Set a public hearing for Oct. 8 to set a 30-day expiration date for conditional-use permits, which are currently attached to parcels indefinitely.
— Set a public hearing for Oct. 8 to amend an ordinance that would confine unattended Planet Aid clothing donation bins to businesses that already accept donations of used clothing, such as the Robeson County Church and Community Center.
— Extended a contract with UniFirst, a company that provides the city’s uniforms, for five years.
— Set a public hearing for Monday to consider economic development incentives for a new industrial project known only as “Project Mule,” and authorize an application to the North Carolina Rural Center for a $450,000 building reuse grant at the Soldier Solution building on Starlite Drive for the project.
— Approved the council meeting schedule for fiscal year 2012-2013.
— Approved about $2,400 in tax releases for the month of July.
— Approved $4,900 for three soil borings for the Tanglewood Sewer Rehab project required by the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
— Authorized the purchase of the Lumberton Dye and Finishing Plant for $50,000 to acquire the right-of-way to improve drainage in the area of East Second, Willow and First streets and Town Commons.
— Designated $400 in community revitalization funds from Precinct 2 for a handicap ramp on Oakwood Avenue.
— Designated $400 in community revitalization funds from Precinct 4 for a handicap ramp on Saxon Avenue.
— Designated $400 in community revitalization funds from Precinct 4 for Community Day.
— Designated $400 in community revitalization funds from Precinct 4 for housing repairs on Orange Street.
— Designated $300 in community revitalization funds from Precinct 7 for a handicap ramp on Kenny Biggs Road.
— Designated $1,000 in community revitalization funds from Precinct 8 for Community Day.
— Designated $305 in community revitalization funds from Precinct 8 for a meal at Abigail’s Tea Room. The funds were needed to cover the additional cost of the meal provided after the recognition of James E. Jones, Tuskeegee airman.
Any action taken by the council on Wednesday has to be approved during its regular meeting on Monday.