County to seek outside advice on beer sales

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Bedford County Board of Commissioners' rules and legislative committee deferred action again on changes to the county's beer sales law Tuesday night, this time to seek input from the University of Tennessee's County Technical Assistance Service (CTAS).

Commissioner Billy King has been urging the county to eliminate the distance requirement between stores that sell package beer and churches or schools. The City of Shelbyville has done away with such requirements, and King has said at previous meetings that it's time for the county to follow suit.

Challenge possible

King has implied that the rules are outdated and could be challenged in court, the same way that the county's denial of a zoning change led to a lawsuit.

The issue has been divisive, with commissioners who have stated positions on both sides.

Commissioner Linda Yockey noted Tuesday night that current state law allows local governments to set such distance requirements, up to 2,000 feet. The county currently uses that maximum figure; some other counties use shorter distances.

"I'd like an attorney general's opinion on the validity of that statute," said Yockey. Is the law likely to be challenged in court, and would it hold up?

Legal basis

Rules committee chair P.T. "Biff" Farrar said Tuesday night he believes the county still has a clear legal ability to set a distance.

"I don't have any doubt that we can set some boundary," he said, leaving open the question of whether 2,000 feet is an appropriate distance. "I don't see any exposure there, myself."

Asking for an attorney general's opinion, which must usually be done through a state legislator, can be a long process, and County Mayor Eugene Ray said it might be quicker to ask the question of CTAS, which advises county governments on a wide range of issues.

Commissioner Tony Barrett moved to defer the beer sales issue and ask the mayor to seek information from CTAS.

OTHER BUSINESS: Regions Bank

During the courthouse and county property committee meeting later in the evening, commissioner Julie Sanders asked about the status of the former Regions Bank building on the west side of the square. The county bought that building several years ago, with the idea of moving several county offices into it from rental spaces elsewhere in town, but the process of renovating and remodeling the building has been delayed numerous times.

Ray said that the county did not receive an energy efficiency grant it had applied for, which will increase the cost of the project. Architect John Davis is continuing to draw up plans for how to divide the building. The county hopes to use inmate labor for much of the project.

The building has windows that are not energy-efficient, and the aging elevator is reported to need frequent repair.

The lease for the county offices now in the basement of the US Bank building expires in March 2018, and Sanders expressed some concern about that looming deadline. Ray reassured her that work continues on moving the county offices into the county-owned building by that time.

Cascade intersection

County planning and zoning director Chris White said that Tennessee Department of Transportation is looking at the intersection of Fairfield Pike with State Route 269 (Bell Buckle-Wartrace Road) adjacent to Cascade School, due to a large number of accidents there. White said he's been invited to attend a meeting in Nashville to discuss the issue.

Growth and development

White said the county continues to show signs of growth; a new subdivision plat on Horse Mountain Road is the county planning office's first major subdivision application in years, he said.