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County ABC board ready to drop pursuit of store

It looks like Henderson County will pass on building a new liquor store — for now.

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After receiving a consultant's report that recommended against building a new store, the county's ABC board made a tentative plan to wind down its work.
"I think what we're saying is that at the present the needs are being met," said consultant Dennie Martin, who co-wrote the report for the Martin McGill consulting firm in Asheville. "If you do open a store, more than likely another system will suffer from it. There are sufficient outlets in Henderson County and near Henderson County."
The county board, appointed last summer after voters approved ABC stores countywide in May 2012, is expected to make a report as early as next month on its own recommendation, then suspend work until population changes or other factors warrant exploring a new store again.
New stores, on Sweeten Creek Road in Asheville, Upward Road in Hendersonville and in Pisgah Forest, had changed the market outlook, Martin said.
"As far as your major population areas, they're really covered," she said. "This hadn't been the case three years ago. Three new stores have been built in the last three years. It really makes a difference. I thought Etowah might be a prospect for a store and it might still be in the future. But right now it's covered."
Population growth could make a new liquor store feasible a few years down the road, the consultants said. The study projected that Henderson County's population would grow from 107,000 now to 116,871 by 2015 and 127,963 by 2020.
The consultants produced a map showing that eight ABC stores in Henderson, Buncombe and Transylvania counties cover the area and overlap one another's markets.
"I think the most compelling reason for not moving forward is this map," said board member George Erwin. "A picture's worth a thousand words."
Chairman Beau Waddell said he would check with county attorney Russ Burrell on steps the ABC board would take to stay in business, perhaps with infrequent meetings, so that it can reactivate based on market conditions or to pursue a merger of Henderson County's three ABC systems, which are run by separate boards in Hendersonville, Laurel Park and Fletcher.
"We don't need all these ABC boards," County Manager Steve Wyatt said. "What's the highest form of cooperation? Consolidation. From my standpoint you could do a better service to the whole community with one. I'm sure everybody wants their own ABC board but you read this and it jumps out at you."
Members of the three city boards have told the county ABC board they're not interested in a merger. Under state law, the county can't force them to merge.