By REBECCA HAZEN
The City of Trenton Planning Commission held a special called meeting on Thursday, Feb. 17, to discuss and plan details of the new distilled spirits sales ordinance.
The planning commission is tasked with providing recommendations to the City Commission regarding the allowance of liquor stores in the city limits.
In last November’s election, city voters voted yes to the following questions:
1. Shall the issuance of licenses for the package sale of distilled spirits be approved?
2. Shall the governing authority of the City of Trenton, Georgia, be authorized to permit and regulate Sunday sales of distilled spirits or alcoholic beverages for beverage purposes by the drink?
3. Shall the governing authority of the City of Trenton, Georgia, be authorized to permit and regulate package sales by retailers of both malt beverages and wine on Sundays between the hours of 12:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.?
Initially, Daniel Case, Chair of the Planning Commission, was in favor of restrictions so that there couldn’t be more than one liquor store in the city.
“It’s our job to see that the city grows successfully. If you have a prominent business already established, it’s hard to bring another one in. We don’t want to see the businesses fail. Population density has to play a role. My recommendation is one, but if the population increases then we can revisit this,” Case said.
Planning Commission member Cody Doyle said that they shouldn’t limit the amount of liquor stores, and he thought that zoning restrictions would be enough.
“It is going to take someone with a checkbook. Those people are usually pretty smart. They are not going to make a bad decision,” Doyle said.
It was noted that the city of Trenton population is around 2,700.
“If we say we will allow one per 2,700, then that’s pretty transparent. But if we allow one for every 1,000, we are allowing for growth,” Planning Commission member Philip York said.
“If businesses depended on just the population of Trenton, they would never survive,” Planning Commission member Steven Ryan said, noting that a lot of people drive through Dade County and are an extra source of revenue.
City Commissioner Monda Wooten attended the Planning Commission meeting and gave her opinion on the number of liquor stores.
“Everyone knows that I’d rather not see any liquor stores. But we can’t promote our personal agendas either. It has been voted in. If we only have one, that makes it seem like we’re saying that we’re trying to control it. We want to do this right, and I want to be fair about it. I would be happy with just two,” Wooten said.
“I think I am changing my mind on limiting it to one. I’m thinking maybe three, and the chances are that there might not be more than two,” Case said toward the end of the meeting.
No definite decision was made on the number of stores, and it was noted that the discussion would continue at the next meeting.
The Planning Commission agreed that liquor stores should be allowed in zones B1, B3 (Business 1 and 3) and BR (Business Residential), and that any application for a store in the BR zone would need prior approval.
The inclusion of zone B1 was cause for much discussion.
“If you look at B1, you will pretty much scratch there ever being a liquor store. You have all the churches and the schools there,” Ryan said.
It was also noted that if there were parking restrictions, that would exclude anything on the square.
“We can leave B1 in there. I’m looking toward the future. The nice thing about all of this, it can be changed,” Case replied.
Other rules and restrictions discussed included that the stores would be limited to selling just distilled spirits, beer, and wine. No other items, such as lottery tickets, would be allowed.
A liquor store would have to be 100 yards away from any park or recreational area. The liquor stores themselves would be limited to 500 yards apart, which is currently state law.
A new liquor store would be limited to 3,500 square feet, and 80 percent of the space should be retail space for inventory.
If there is new construction of a liquor store, then deliveries need to happen in the rear of the store.
If the owners are caught selling to underage customers, they will lose their liquor license.
“The downside of what we’re having to do here is put franchise restrictions on a non-franchise business,” Case said. “A franchise would lay all of this out. If it was a franchise, we wouldn’t have to make all these restrictions.”
Parking was also discussed, but no decisions were made during the meeting. The Planning Commission discussed the possibility of allowing one parking space for every 1,000 square feet of selling space.
It was noted that if a liquor store went into the city’s shopping plazas, the amount of parking spaces covers the square footage of the entire plaza.
The Planning Commission will meet with City Commissioners on Tuesday, March 1 for a workshop session to further discuss the ordinance.