Leaders of Henderson County and its towns talked booze, dogs and funding non-government agencies on Tuesday.
They settled little on any of the issues, although they did hear words of caution from the state's top ABC official.
Laurie Lee, director of the state Alcoholic Beverage Commission, said while the state does not dictate where ABC stores can go and how many should be in a given area, it discourages new liquor stores from encroaching on existing ones.
The topic is relevant to Henderson County and its towns because county voters approved liquor stores countywide plus beer and wine sales in stores in the May 8 ballot questions. Hendersonville has two liquor stores and Laurel Park and Fletcher each have one, and the Board of Commissioners have now started the process that could result in a new one in unincorporated Henderson County.
The discussion was part of the agenda in a meeting of the Local Government Committee for Cooperative Action.
While new stores may slightly increase overall sales, they mainly take sales from other existing stores, Lee said.
"You end up cannibalizing profits," she said.
She cited an example of ABC stores in Boone, Banner Elk, Seven Devils and Sugar Mountain competing for business in Watauga County. "They merged three stores into one, shared the profits and did very very well," she said.
State law refers to the "proximity" of ABC stores but does not set a distance or define what that means. In Brunswick County, ABC officials said two liquor stores could not be within seven miles of one another.
"They can put them a lot closer than that," Fletcher Councilman Bob Davy said, noting that Buncombe County put an ABC store on Sweeten Creek Road only a couple of miles from the Fletcher ABC store. That happened before the Legislature added the reference to store proximity, Lee said.
Lee told the local government representatives that a county ABC board would be responsible for raising the money to build a new store, which would cost about $1 million. The board itself, not the government, is responsible for getting a bank loan or line of credit and running the business in a profitable way.
Henderson County commissioners voted last month to create an ABC board, with each commissioner nominating a board member from his district. Four of the five have been nominated and undergone a background check, County Manager Steve Wyatt said, and commissioners could act to confirm those as early as Wednesday.
"The issue of financing is going to be a tremendous issue," he said. "How do you finance these ABC stores? There are other expenses that would be involved, so a business plan would be developed and that's not something they could do in short order. There has been a lot of speculation as to where (a liquor store) might be but that's all that is."
The local government representatives also talked about animal control.
Mayor Bob Staton said Flat Rock residents have been complaining for about a year that when they call authorities about barking dogs or stray dogs or feral cats, they're told the sheriff's department has no jurisdiction in the village.
"Some of our citizens are confused about what is going on with animal control in Flat Rock and unfortunately so are we," he said.
Staton said the reason Flat Rock missed a meeting about animal control last October was because "we weren't invited."
Staton, who was out of town when the Hendersonville Lightning reported on the meeting Sheriff Rick Davis held with town managers on animal control. The story implied that "it was our fault for not being there," he said, leading to attacks on the council.
Despite a resident's warning that "we have some dangerous conditions in Flat Rock," Staton said he had never received a call about dangerous dogs, and had received perhaps five or six in all. "Of all those calls, not one has been about stray dogs. They have been about my neighbor's dogs barking and keeping me up all night, my little Fifi was attacked," he said. "We would have attended that meeting had we known anything about it, especially had we known what the topic was."
Staton said he had had a constructive conversation about the matter with Sheriff Charlie McDonald.
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