Officials side with sweepstakes centers

on Wednesday, 09 August 2017. Posted in Legal News

Internet sweepstakes center advocates prevailed Tuesday night against more restrictions.

The Planning and Design Review Board met to consider increasing the separation requirements of the centers among each other, religious institutions, schools and residences as well as increasing the parking space requirement. The topic originally was broached at the June meeting to deal with traffic congestion issues lodged by nearby businesses and was continued to a meeting on Aug. 1, but without a quorum, the topic was continued to Tuesday night.

“There have been some concerns from industries in terms of parking and cafe concentration complicating deliveries and such,” said Land Development Manager Janet Holland. “We’re trying to address that with added separation requirements.”

Currently the centers are required to be 250 feet from schools, churches and houses, but the proposals was increasing that separation to 1,000 feet and requiring the centers to meet the same distance. Board member Charlie Pat Farris Jr. recused himself before the debate since his cousin, attorney Will Farris, planned to speak on behalf of a sweepstakes owner.

Will Farris said the concentration of centers is due to the city restricting the facilities to the heavy industrial district.

“If the 1,000 foot separation goes in place, there would be no place to move,” he said. “So it is not about just moving because they would have to shut down.”

He further noted that many of the centers are in buildings that were long vacant yet now have been renovated, adding to the tax base and providing employment.

“You have to look at the investment they have made because they haven’t just bought a building, but they’ve brought it up to code,” he said. “Every one of these places is putting money back into making these buildings and the premises nicer.”

He argued that if additional regulations are implemented, the current business owners should be exempt.

“These aren’t big corporations. These are local people and when you add more distance requirements after they’ve complied, it seems unduly burdensome,” he said.

Tom Corbett, broker and manager of First Venture Properties, questioned the motive behind the quest for increased separation.

“If you want to get rid of (the centers), you need to make regulations as a whole, not requirements that would put them out of business,” he said.

Board members Ralph Owens and Gerald Daugherty agreed with Corbett’s sentiments and asked whether separation requirements would solve the traffic congestion issues. Ron Sutton, of Herring-Sutton and Associates, recommended a no-parking zone for on-street parking would be a better solution and Holland said the city will look into that as an option. When the discussion steered to changing the required parking ratio from one parking space per video monitor to 1.25 or 1.5 parking spaces, Owens expressed his thoughts.

“I’m having trouble agreeing to 1.25 spaces per machine because I don’t know if people who are parking on the street would use the parking lot,” he said. “We’re forcing (the business owners) into something because a few people don’t want to walk a few more steps.”

At the end of the discussion, the planning board voted to retain the current separation and parking requirements with the request that staff look into no-parking zone for on-street parking. Also at the meeting, 3333 U.S. 301 N. was rezoned from a mix of highway commercial and light industrial to all light industrial zoning.

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