LUMBERTON — The City Council on Monday is expected to send to the Planning Board a conditional-use permit request that would allow an Internet sweepstakes gaming center about a block from City Hall.
The application was submitted by Chung Youn to open the gaming center at 306 N. Pine St.
The council voted last month to extend a moratorium on electronic and cyber gaming establishments that expired on May 11, but according to Brandon Love, director of Planning and Neighborhood Services, it was not advertised before the public hearing date of June 11.
“We had it to council in time but we didn’t have it in time to send in the notices,” Love said. “… There’s been a window of opportunity here where we did receive an application for an Internet cafe.”
In May 2010, the city enacted the moratorium on new electronic or cyber gambling establishments. The council voted the following year to extend the moratorium because of unclear direction given by the state General Assembly regarding that kind of establishment. Love said that various lawsuits are still active regarding the privilege licensing.
“Is this one of those dogs that we discussed at the last meeting that the dog warden left the gate open, and now I’m getting bit?” said Councilman John Cantey, of Precinct 5, where the gaming center would be located. “Am I the first one to get bit, or are there others?”
Love said several people submitted applications for gaming centers, but after they learned of the fees associated with a center — $5,000 per business plus an additional $2,500 per gaming or computer terminal — all but Youn decided not to submit an application.
“I don’t think anybody laid blame,” said Councilman Erich Hackney of Precinct 8. “I will say that I was disappointed, and the reason why I was disappointed was, when we have a moratorium, to me, there needs to be something in place … that prior to that moratorium expiring, we would have plenty of time to do what we as a council collectively would like to do with respect to that moratorium. That was my disappointment.”
In one lawsuit, four city gaming establishments recently filed an appeal with the state Supreme Court saying that the city’s privilege license taxes are too high and unconstitutional.
The businesses — The Internet Business Center, G&M Co., Sweep-Net Business Center, and EZ Access of North Carolina — have retained Winston-Salem attorney Adam Charnes to provide additional counsel to Fayetteville attorney Lonnie Player Jr. for the appeal.
Charnes on May 25 appealed a 2-1 decision by the Court of Appeals in the city’s favor.
The city in 2010 upped its privilege license from $12.50 to the present level of $5,000 per business and $2,500 per gaming terminal within the business. Charnes in his appeal called the tax increases “unprecedented” and said his clients believe the increases “would put them out of business and were intended to do so,” violating the state Constitution’s Just and Equitable Tax Clause.
The city would receive about $225,000 in taxes and penalties from the businesses if the ruling is upheld again.
Also on Monday, the council is expected to:
— Set a public hearing date of June 11 for acceptance of the Robeson County Hazard Mitigation Plan.
— Approve a $12,750 change order for construction of the new Lumberton Police Department.
— Adopt a resolution to provide water to maintain landscaping on a median in Wycliffe Subdivision.
— Approve an amendment to the conditional-use permit process that would create new subcategories that would specify the inclusion of a bar or nightclub along with a property’s primary use.
— Adopt a resolution requesting that the state Department of Transportation delete a portion of Water Street from West Second Street to West Fifth Street from the state highway system and approve the city’s acceptance of the street.
— Approve the resurfacing of Third Street and a parking lot at the corner of Water and West Third streets at an estimated cost of $47,391.
— Approve an application for annexation for property located on Fayetteville Road across the street from Robeson Community College. According to Love, developers are requesting city utilities for property outside the city limits for a Bojangle’s restaurant.
— Approve about $2,300 in tax releases from 2010 and 2011.
— Approve the de-obligation of $180 in housing rehabilitation funds in Precinct 5.
— Designate $1,000 in community revitalization funds from Precinct 5 to McCormick’s Chapel.
— Adopt the North Carolina state building codes.
— Approve an easement for AT&T in the Third Street parking lot.
— Designate $1,100 from the general fund for the Robeson County Partnership for Children.