The newly opened Halls Mill Market will have to wait a bit before selling beer at the location.
Bedford County Beer Board met Wednesday afternoon to approve the owner’s permit for selling beer. However, at the owner’s request, the board voted to defer the decision until September. Several questions were raised about the selling of beer at the location due to its close proximity to Crowell’s Chapel Lutheran Church.
Bedford County has adopted a rule forbidding the sale, storage or manufacture of beer within 2,000 feet of a church, school, or other place of public gathering as well as within 300 feet of a residential dwelling (if the owner objects to the issuance of a beer permit).
According to Bedford County Zoning Director Chris White, “It is a law that was passed by the General Assembly back in 1935-ish when rural counties were decades away from the ability to pass and enforce their own zoning resolutions.
“But the law was not forced down the throats of counties, county commissions across the state would be required to pass their own resolutions with a 2/3 vote before they could enforce it.” It became an official ruling in 1984.
Crowell’s Chapel is approximately 0.2 miles from the market and thus just over 1,000 feet. The church is around 125 years old and has graves dating back to the late 1700s. It’s a small church with around 20 people attending every weekend.
Church treasurer Ed Hillegass said they would be fine with the market selling beer as long as they don’t turn the business into “a bar.” Hillegass also added they don’t have a lot of young adults attending the church who could be potentially influenced by the selling of alcohol.
According to Laylah Smith, County Technical Assistance Service (CTAS) legal consultant, a formal action enacted by the Bedford County Commission exempting a distance requirement for the purpose of selling beer would invalidate the 2,000-foot distance rule (which was previously adopted on July 9, 1984, pursuant to TCA 57-5-105(b)(1.)
Beer board member Larry Joyce said this exemption would need to go before the zoning board, the rules and legislative committee, and the board of commissioners before the beer board can decide on the permit.
According to Smith, a new distance rule could be established by measuring the shortest distance between an existing license and the nearest school, residence, church, or other public gathering place. The second option is to pass a new resolution reinstating the distance rule. But all permits that were issued in violation of the distance rule must be eliminated in order to do this.
The question was also raised as to whether the applicant has to pay the application fee of $250 again due to the deferral. The County attorney advised, “No portion of this fee can be refunded to the applicant regardless of whether the application is approved or denied.”