Perkins: Nixing alcohol sales agenda item prevents divisive discussion

May 6, 2014 10:26:17 AM

Carl Smith - [email protected]


An agenda item that would have set public hearings on a law relaxing Starkville alcohol sales was pulled Monday from today's city business, officials confirmed Monday. 


The proposal, submitted by Ward 5 Alderman Scott Maynard, listed in Friday's e-packet would, if later approved, have allowed more business parcels to sell alcohol for on-site consumption by adopting standards set forth in state code. 


Restaurants and businesses cannot sell alcohol if they are located within 250 feet of the nearest point of any church, school, childcare facility or funeral home. That distance is measured with a straight line, rather than routes of pedestrian travel. 


Maynard's would have lowered the prohibited distance to 100 feet, given that both properties are zoned either commercial or industrial and allowed churches and funeral homes to waive the distance requirement. Traditional single-family neighborhoods would have received more protection under the change as state law increases the distance requirement to 400 feet in non-commercial and non-industrial areas. 


Businesses located at least 100 feet away from churches and schools can already sell alcohol for off-site consumption, city code states, no matter how properties are zoned.  


It is not known why the agenda item was pulled from today's meeting. Maynard previously told The Dispatch last week that he hoped he had the votes to proceed with the change. 


Ward 6 Alderman and Vice Mayor Roy A. Perkins, who previously slammed the alcohol ordinance amendment, said its removal from tonights' agenda spares the city from a divisive conversation. 


"After taking in comments from the weekend, there is no need of going through this tough issue at the table and getting the community all keyed up and involved. This is the best resolution because it avoids all of the discussions, comments and all other related things that something goes through to be considered by the board," he said. "I'd like to thank Alderman Maynard for removing the matter from the agenda. It is in the best interest of the city of Starkville for this to not be on the agenda and not to be discussed." 


Perkins reached out to The Dispatch Friday and Saturday to comment on the issue after the e-packet was published Friday. He was unaware that the agenda item would emerge, he said , and took issue with how the change could impact church-goers. 


Perkins said Monday that he did not speak with any of his fellow aldermen about the agenda item or its potential removal.  


"There needs to be as much separation of space and distance as possible between churches and drinking establishments. We as a community need to protect the sanctity and standards of the churches in our community," he said Saturday. "Christ died for the forgiveness of our sins. That is enough justification for us, as a city, to keep liquor, wine and beer as far away from God's kingdom as possible. 


Monday, Perkins said, "Hopefully this matter is dead and will not have to be considered in the future." 


Ward 2 Alderman Lisa Wynn said she could not support the matter "out of respect for her church, her church family and the many other churches and their families." 


Starkville Main Street Association and Convention and Visitors Bureau boards both supported Maynard's attempt to unlock additional parcels for restaurant development. Officials said the new rule could help increase Main Street, Russell Street and Miss. Highway 182 developments, thereby increasing Starkville's 2 percent food and beverage tax receipts. 


Maynard previously said it was crucial to secure the new alcohol ordinance since incoming restaurants are expected to be attracted to the Russell Street corridor. as The Mill project takes shape.  


"Going to 100 feet will allow developers to build on specific corners with mixed-use retail," he said Friday. "I think the big fear in the past has been that big bars are going to open up. The reality is we haven't had a significantly large bar open in Starkville in a very long time. I think the citywide trend -- sit-down, high-end restaurants -- will open on Russell Street, mainly because of the developments associated with the Mill at MSU project."

Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch