Hawkins commissioner seeks referendum on wine, spirits
Published April 5th, 2012 10:02 pm
ROGERSVILLE If Hawkins County leaders have concerns about a proposal allowing the County Commission to regulate nuisance businesses, Commissioner John Metz is suggesting that it stop regulating the sale of wine and spirits.
And Metz wants to put that question in the hands of Hawkins County voters in November in the form of a referendum.
Hawkins County currently prohibits the sale of liquor and wine except in the small section of Kingsport located within the county and the Hale Springs Inn in Rogersville, which has a private legislative act due to being a historical landmark.
Its a commonly held belief that the reason why major restaurant chains wont locate in Hawkins County is because the liquor and wine sales that make up a major percentage of their profits are prohibited.
During the March 26 Hawkins County Commission meeting, Metz introduced a regulatory resolution that is allowed as a local option by the Tennessee Code Annotated for the purpose of regulating businesses deemed to be a nuisance.
The purpose was to pave the way for a subsequent resolution that would limit access to seasonal fireworks sales to volunteer fire departments. That would eliminate tent sales in the county, some of which werent paying sales tax.
The regulatory resolution was met with apprehension by some commissioners, who expressed concern that future commissions might use it to unnecessarily regulate other businesses.
Some commissioners expressed an opinion that there is already too much government regulation against business.
Following a lengthy discussion on March 26, the commission agreed to table the resolution until its April meeting to give commissioners time to study the issue and discuss it with constituents.
Metz intends to introduce both the regulatory resolution and a resolution limiting access to seasonal fireworks sales permits at the April County Commission meeting.
In May, however, Metz intends to take on Hawkins Countys existing regulation of wine and spirits, which he says is possibly the biggest hindrance to economic growth in Hawkins County.
My understanding of, and great appreciation for, the fears of regulations have brought a greater concern to mind, Metz told the Times-News Thursday. Hawkins County currently restricts the lawful and legitimate sales of wine and spirits. If an unjust and unreasonable regulation to free enterprise is feared, then its hard to justify why the legal sale of beer is permitted, yet wine and spirits are not.
Therefore, I fully intend to introduce at the May County Commission meeting a resolution requesting that a referendum be placed on the November ballot to allow the voters to decide if the regulation of business is truly fair.
If voters decide in favor of allowing the sale of wine and spirits, the County Commission would allow proper due diligence in getting the regulations right the first time and allow time for negotiations of economic development, Metz added.
He noted that allowing wine and spirits to be sold in the county would likely result in commercial growth within the county in the form of sales tax revenue and commercial property taxes if new restaurants moved in.
Regardless of ones personal convictions, I feel it imperative that the citizens of our county decide for themselves, Metz said. The property owners of Hawkins County cannot continue to be considered the only method of procuring revenue.
The regulatory resolution to be considered again in April requires a two-thirds vote by the County Commission. Then each regulating resolution such as the fireworks proposal would require a two-thirds vote as well.
Too often a rush is placed on important matters and do not allow citizens time to give voice to their concerns and opinions, Metz said. I can certainly appreciate the concerns of my fellow commissioners and neighbors anytime additional regulation is mentioned.
Metz added, Having said that, unjustified regulation would not have much chance of passing. I am unsure of how gaining the regulatory authority already enjoyed by the cities in our county can negatively affect county constituents.
Published April 5th, 2012 10:02 pm
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