Greenfield Board Tables Revised Beer Ordinance, Liquor Referendum
BY DAVID FISHER
GREENFIELD (April 12) — A proposed Beer Ordinance and Liquor Referendum were a couple of the more hotly debated items on the agenda, during Greenfield City Board’s regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, April 12.
Revised Beer Ordinance
After hearing comments from several local citizens, both for and against making changes to the City of Greenfield’s Beer Ordinance, the first reading of a proposed amended ordinance was tabled until the board receives more feedback from the community.
The current ordinance regulating beer sales reads as follows:
“No permit authorizing the sale of beer will be issued where such business will cause congested traffic, or interfere with schools, churches, cemeteries, or other places of public gathering; or would otherwise interfere with the public health, safety or morals. In no event, will a permit be issued authorizing the storage, sale, or manufacture of beer within 2,000 ft. of any school, church or other such places of public gathering measured in a direct line.”
The existing ordinance states the 2,000 ft. minimum distance is “measured in a direct line”. It does not specify whether the distance limitation is measured from door-to-door or property line to property line.
Much of the discussion alluded to arguments made at the March 8 City Board meeting. Since many of those comments were not restated Tuesday night, some of the major comments are reiterated below for the reader’s benefit.
During last month’s meeting, the board instructed City Attorney Beau Pemberton to draft an amendment to the city’s existing Beer Ordinance, which would reduce the distance between businesses selling beer and a church or school to 300 ft. and to specify the distance be measured “from property line to property line”.
At that time, Pemberton noted, by comparison, the distance limitation in neighboring municipalities is as follows: Dresden has a 50 ft. limitation, Sharon 100 ft., Gleason 300 ft., Bradford 300 ft., Dyer 400 ft., and Rutherford 200 ft.
Pemberton explained the board has the authority to amend its Beer Ordinance to make it less restrictive, but cannot make it more restrictive than the current 2,000 ft. distance requirement.
Pope argued that those who purchase beer elsewhere drive on Greenfield’s streets, but the tax revenue generated from alcohol sales is not received by the city. He noted the additional tax money collected from beer sales could be spent on improving city streets.
“I don’t think by changing the ordinance to make beer more accessible will in any way be promoting the sale of alcohol,” Alderman James Roy Pope said. “We’re talking about package beer sales and package beer sales only, at this time.”
According to City Recorder Callie Croom Smithson, Greenfield currently only has one business that sells beer. This is the Tobacco SuperStore, located at 3770 North Meridian Street. This business pays the city approximately $20,000 annually in local sales taxes for beer purchases.
“Our general paving runs between $30,000 and $40,000 per year,” Pope said. He advocated earmarking tax revenue from beer sales for maintaining city streets.
Pope stated reducing the distance limitations would give local businesses the option of selling beer, if they wish to do so. He said, some of these stores are struggling, and this might encourage them to remain in Greenfield. This same issue has been raised by business owners in other local towns, who argue they can’t compete with stores that sell beer if they are not allowed to do the same.
When discussion on the Beer Ordinance resumed during Tuesday night’s meeting, the board was sharply divided over the issue.
Pleas were made by several local citizens, for the board to consider the moral objections to making beer more accessible.
Some of the comments from Greenfield citizens included Greenfield citizen and former board Greenfield board member, Mike Caudle, who said, “I’m here tonight to oppose the change to the Beer Ordinance, and the Liquor Referendum.
“Most of you know that I served on this board, and the county commission for a number of years. In both of those tenures, I was asked to serve on the beer board, so I am more aware of the ordinances than many others may be. Under those statutes, anyone who is a legal resident of the United States, who is an adult, and hasn’t been convicted of a crime, has to be granted a license.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the argument is being made that we need the revenue,” Caudle said. “We’ve gotten less and less help from our state and federal government these past few years through grants and that type of thing.
“But, I’m also reminded of the apostle Paul, who said, ‘I will not eat any meat or drink a drink if it causes my brother to stumble.’ “
Caudle said, “95,000 American citizens die every year from alcohol-related illnesses and accidents; 5,000 of those are teenagers.
“A report by the Center For Disease Control states that 29 percent of high school students already drink, and 15 percent binge drink, which means they drink four or five drinks at a time. Five percent of those admit to driving while under the influence (of alcohol) or riding with someone who is under the influence.”
Caudle stated that alcohol contributes to:
- school problems, such as higher absences and lower grade point averages;
- social problems, such as fighting and lacking in participation in youth activities;
- legal problems, such as arrests, because of physically hurting someone, due to an accident;
- physical problems, including brain develop and other illnesses that are related to it.
- unwanted, unplanned and unprotected sexual activities;
- disruption of normal growth and sexual development;
- physical and sexual violence;
- and the risk of suicide and homicide.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we do not need any more alcohol in this community,” Caudle said. “When I was growing up, here in Greenfield, there were no less than five places where you could legally walk in and buy alcohol, and there were probably half a dozen bootleggers in the County. I can remember murders, stabbings, shootings, and beatings occurring on a monthly basis.
“Some say, well, that’s for over the counter sales only. It doesn’t make any difference. It’s alcohol that contributes to these things. That’s the reason the 2,000 ft. rule was developed in this community.”
Caudle stated he was appealing to the board’s moral sense, as well as the monetary costs to society related to the use of alcohol. He noted the CDC conducted a study in 2010 that shows it costs the U.S. a quarter of a trillion dollars every year because of alcohol-related factors. As a result of that, it costs the State of Tennessee $4,683,800,000 annually. A lot of that was due to lower productivity in the workplace, people not showing up for work or showing up drunk, and people being injured or hurt at work. It also increased the amount of health care for treating alcohol-related problems. It increased the cost for law enforcement, judicial costs, and also, the losses from motor vehicle crashes.
According to Caudle, the study still underestimates the cost of excessive drinking, because excessive drinking is often under-reported or unavailable. And the study did not include other costs, such as pain and suffering due to alcohol-related injuries.
Tennessee is ranked 35th in the amount of taxes it charges for liquor, but it’s rated number one in the amount it charges in beer excise tax. The CDC recommends the way to curb the problems that costs Tennesseans billions of dollars every year, is through pricing strategies. This means increasing the price of alcohol and regulating the number and locations where alcohol is served.
Caudle then made reference to a statement at last month’s board meeting regarding alcohol, made by Alderman James Roy Pope, who said, “I don’t think a change in the ordinance will make beer more accessible, or in any way promote the sale of alcohol.”
Caudle said, “I remember a statement that is much akin to that, when the serpent told Eve, ‘You shall not surely die.’ ”
Another local citizen, James Harold Hazlewood, pastor of Greenfield First Baptist Church said, “I come here tonight to express my concerns, as well, about changing the beer ordinance here in Greenfield. I also oppose the idea of a liquor referendum. I’d like to urge this board tonight, to look beyond line item budgets for the city, and look at the lives of our citizens. I urge you tonight to look beyond revenues and think about repercussions. There are a lot of things you can’t put a price tag on.”
Regarding the proposed change to the city’s Beer Ordinance and the possibility of a liquor referendum, pastor Hazelwood said, “If it impacts one child’s life, if it disrupts one parent, if it destroys one home – the price is too high.”
“It’s Holy Week, and the time when we are going to remember the death of Jesus Christ,” Hazelwood said. “Sunday, we will celebrate our resurrected Lord. One of his own, Judas, betrayed him. Judas was a businessman; he looked at everything in dollars and cents. As he looked at those dollars and cents, he made a decision to sell his soul for a few pieces of silver. It’s my prayer that this board will not sell its soul for a few pieces of silver.”
Randy Potts, former Greenfield City Recorder and pastor of New Home Baptist Church, addressed the board saying, “I want to begin by saying, thank you for your service to Greenfield. You have a big job; and sometimes, it’s a thankless job. I am a citizen, a taxpayer, a father, a grandfather, and one of your constituents. With that said, I want to tell you that, I am opposed, I am against the proposed change in the city’s Beer Ordinance to reduce the distance from 2,000 ft. to 300 ft. in order to sell, manufacture or store beer within 300 ft. of our school, our churches, or any other such place of public gathering.”
Tyler Mitchell said, “It’s a blessing not to have alcohol here in this town – except for one place. People like me need that. We’re missing an opportunity here to not be like everybody else – to stand our ground.” Mitchell asked the board to “explore other avenues, before we consider bringing in more alcohol. Let’s dig in. Let’s do the hard work. Let’s figure out how we can increase revenue. There are other ways. There is marketability to a town that says, ‘Hey! We don’t want alcohol.’ There are people who want to live in communities that don’t have alcohol.”
Longtime Greenfield resident, Frank Gibson, said, “There are a lot of ways to increase revenue in this town, without a beer and alcohol tax. I read in the paper, where our illustrious mayor is president of the West Tennessee Mayor’s Association. Their goal is to increase West Tennessee industry and business. Mike Biggs got me to help build the Parker Hannifin plant here in 1988, and shortly thereafter, we got Plastic Products Company to come in. And, we haven’t had any industry since then. Maybe we ought to give the same effort to try to recruit industry and business into Greenfield. I assure you it would substantially increase our revenue a lot more than a beer and alcohol tax. I’m really disappointed over the effort we’ve made over the last 30 years to try to recruit.”
Gibson stated, with all of the industry moving into the region, including Ford’s manufacturing plant at the Memphis Regional Supersite in Brownsville, Tennessee, the company is going to want their suppliers to be located within 100-200 miles. He noted someone needs to market Greenfield as a supplier, since its four-lane highway makes it easily accessible. “There are potential suppliers coming from Japan, China and Korea,” Gibson said. “We need to be proactive to have somebody working on that board to try to let people know about Greenfield. Now that you’re putting your budget together for next year, let’s include an effort to increase business and industry in this town.”
“We are working on it. I promise you,” Mayor McAdams said. “As a matter of fact, we’ll have something next month on that. Our Weakley County Economic Director, Justin Crice, is working tirelessly on it. We are looking at Ford suppliers and so forth. I have a meeting next month with some of them. It’s in the plan. I guarantee you it is.” The mayor mentioned Mr. Crice and former Greenfield Mayor Mike Biggs would be at the May meeting.
Greenfield citizen Crystal McGill, said, “I’m a former alcoholic; and it’s hard sometimes not to go back. I drank for years and years. The first day I went to church, I was drinking. After that day, I quit. I haven’t had a drink in seven or eight years.” McGill states she fears, if beer is sold at more businesses and alcohol becomes more readily accessible, she may be tempted to go back to drinking again.
Alderman Chris Turbyville said, “I think everyone who has come here tonight has shown their opposition to that (the Beer Ordinance). I don’t think we’re ready for a vote on this, honestly.” He stated more citizens should be allowed the opportunity to voice their opinions on the subject, if they wish to do so. Turbeville then made a motion to table the proposed amendments to the city’s Beer Ordinance. Alderwoman Leanna Stephenson seconded the motion, which was followed by discussion.
Alderman James Roy Pope said, “Obviously, we have some people that are opposed to it. Some of them are very good friends of mine.” Referring to earlier comments during the meeting, Pope said, “That’s the first time I’ve ever been called immoral or a Judas.”
Pope addressed Caudle saying, “You served a long time on this board. You grew up in the same town I grew up in. did you ever drink a beer?
Caudle replied, “I did.”
“Do you think you grew up pretty good?” Pope asked.
Caudle replied, “By the grace of God.”
“Exactly, By the Grace of God, yourself and myself too,” Pope said. “It’s easy to judge, guys; and I’m in no position to go against you and a preacher and another preacher, and I’ve had calls from a couple of other preachers. “You (Caudle) put your time in here. And I can take your criticism probably a lot better than from other people.
“This is the first time we’ve had this many people at a board meeting since I’ve been on the board,” Pope said. “I’ve had some calls, and I’ve got a lot more people in favor of it than I had against it. It’s easier to get complaints than it is compliments – complaints are easy. But, we have some businesses in town we owe some due diligence to also. They’re here now, and I’m not going to say that Fred’s went out because of that, Fred’s went out for other reasons, and that was a big hole when we lost Fred’s here in town. It was a big hole financially. It was a big hole in convenience for everybody. We’ve had more people up here saying, ‘we need a store’ than anything else. I’m not saying beer is the answer to anything, but Casey’s – the towns that they’re in – sell beer. Dollar General – most of them sell beer – like in Bradford, Tennessee.”
Referring to Caudle’s earlier comments about killing due to alcohol, Pope said, “I haven’t heard about a lot of killings in Bradford lately.” Pope noted Dresden has a 50 ft. rule and said, “I haven’t seen a lot of murders over there in the past couple of weeks.”
Caudle injected a scripture verse into the conversation saying, “Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction.”
Pope replied, “I’m not going to try to hide behind the Bible; and I don’t think you can question my morality.”
Pope continued to make comparisons of other local towns that sell beer. He said Sharon has a 100 ft. distance rule and “there’s not really a lot of crime going on over there.” He stated Gleason and Bradford have a 300 ft. distance requirement, “which is what we asked for.” He noted Dyer, in Lake County has a 400 ft. rule in place, while Martin has a 200 ft. distance requirement.
“When they started selling beer, did you all stop going to Walmart?” Pope asked. “Did any of you stop supporting the nicest restaurants in Weakley County when they served beer? It’s easy to complain, but our roads have got to be paved. And everybody complains about that too. You’ve got to generate funds somehow. We could sit here and raise property taxes; and there are probably a lot of you that could afford that. But there are a lot of you that can’t. It’s a luxury. I think anything that’s a vice is a luxury. Are we making it any easier because the working man stops to get his bread, cigarettes and beer, or whatever he gets, so he don’t have to stop at two places? Does it make it any worse if we get the tax dollars off of it here in Weakley County, in Greenfield, than what Bradford gets in Gibson County? You can look at it anyway you want to. We don’t get paid a lot to be up here making enemies.”
Alderwoman Stephenson asked, “Have there been any businesses coming up here asking to sell beer?”
City Recorder Callie Croom Smithson replied, “They don’t apply for it, because it doesn’t fit within the guidelines, so it’s a moot issue.”
A motion to approve the first reading of the amended Beer Ordinance failed by a split vote of 5 to 4, with alderpersons – Donald Ray High, Chris Turbyville, Leanna Stephenson and Don Allen voting to table the Beer Ordinance; and alderpersons – Bobby Morris, Mark Galey, James Roy Pope and Kelly Keylon voting against tabling the measure. Mayor Cindy McAdams broke the tie by voting to table the ordinance.
Attorney Pemberton stated the ordinance that was tabled can be brought back before the board at any future regular or called meeting. He explained, if the ordinance moves forward, it would have to be approved on first, second and third reading. Additionally, there must be a public hearing prior to final passage of the amendment.
A proposed Liquor Referendum was also discussed by members of the board.
If approved, the referendum would be placed on the ballot in the November 8th city election, to allow local citizens to decide the issue, by voting for or against allowing liquor to be sold by the drink in the city limits of Greenfield.
Mayor McAdams said she spoke with Weakley County Administer of Elections Alex Britt, and he told her any additions to the ballot must be made 90 days prior to the election. This means the city must request the referendum be placed on the ballot no later than August 24th of this year, in order to receive the approval of the Weakley County Election Commission.
Attorney Pemberton stated, under state law, for a referendum involving the sale of liquor for consumption on the premises to be placed on the ballot, the board must first approve an ordinance to that effect on three readings and there must be a public hearing regarding the issue.
Voters would answer the referendum question with a simple “yes” or “no” response on the ballot.
Alderwoman Keylon asked about the definition of liquor in reference to the percent of alcohol content.
Attorney Pemberton stated any drink with over 5 percent alcohol content is classified as liquor.
Alderman Pope moved to place the issue of whether or not to allow the sale of alcohol on the premises of local business establishments on a referendum and let the people decide the issue for themselves.
When the roll was called, those voting in favor of placing the proposed liquor referendum on the ballot were: alderpersons – Bobby Morris, Mark Galey, James Roy Pope and Kelly Keylon.
Those opposed to having a referendum to allow the voters to decide the issue were: alderpersons – Donald Ray High, Chris Turbyville, Leanna Stephenson and Don Allen. Mayor Cindy McAdams broke the tie by voting against the referendum, resulting in a vote of 5 “no” and 4 “yes” votes.