The DeKalb County Commission has made it easier for some businesses in the county to get a beer license.
Even though the issue was not on the agenda, the commissioners Monday night by a vote of seven to five adopted a motion to reduce the minimum distance requirement from 2,000 feet to 800 feet between stores seeking to sell beer and places of public gathering such as churches and schools.
The change becomes effective immediately.
Fourth District Commissioner David McDowell made the motion to rescind the measure establishing the existing 2,000 foot rule and set 800 feet as the new minimum distance requirement. Third District member Bradley Hendrix offered a second to the motion.
Those voting in favor in addition to McDowell and Hendrix were Second District Commissioner Jack Barton, Fourth District Commissioner Wayne Cantrell, Fifth District Commissioner Jerry Adcock, and Seventh District Commissioners Jimmy Poss and Larry Summers.
Members voting against the change were First District Commissioner Elmer Ellis, Jr., Second District Commissioner Bobby Joines, Third District Commissioner Jerry Scott, and Sixth District Commissioners Jeff Barnes and Marshall Ferrell.
Two members of the commission, John Green of the fifth district and Mason Carter of the first district were absent Monday night.
During last Thursday night's all-committee's meeting, Jewel Redmon, owner of Jewel's Market & Pizza on the Cookeville Highway, asked the commissioners to re-visit this issue during their meeting Monday night (last night). Redmon has been trying for months to get a beer license at his store but has been denied by the county beer board because the store is too close to the new First Assembly of God Church.
While the issue was not specifically listed on the agenda, it was brought up under other business. Fifth district member Jerry Adcock made a motion not to raise the issue again for at least six months "whether it passes or not" this time (Monday night) since it has been a matter of discussion for several months. But his motion failed to receive a second.
County Attorney Hilton Conger said the commission could not take action to limit a member from "putting a motion on the floor".
First District member Elmer Ellis, Jr. suggested that more notice be given so that the public has a better opportunity to express their opinions on a matter that is so controversial
Seventh District member Larry Summers said that the public was given an opportunity to share their views two months ago, and some people did address the commission, when the issue was put to a vote the first time.
In December, some members of the commission tried to change the distance requirement from 2,000 feet to 400 feet but that proposal died on a seven to seven tie vote. Eight votes were needed for passage that night and County Mayor Mike Foster refused to break the tie.
The 2,000 foot distance regulation is the maximum allowed under state law and it has not been changed since the county adopted it in October 1939. The county has the authority to make the minimum distance something less than 2,000 feet but it cannot be greater than 2,000 feet.
With the change, any business owner who meets all other requirements may now apply for a permit to sell beer as long as his or her establishment is within 800 feet of a church, school, or place of public gathering measuring in a direct line, the nearest point to the nearest point. From the building to the building.