Bird Dog Politics



Applicants for the first liquor store licenses in the city of Waynesboro got a step closer to selling their wares last week – or at least some of them did.

Two of the four applicants got approval; one was turned down; and a fourth was tabled until questions concerning its location can be answered.

That would seem to be a pretty straightforward situation, but then this is Waynesboro, where few things, especially when local politics are involved, are rarely ever straightforward.

The applications were considered at Waynesboro’s regular city council meeting, last Monday, May 16. The first order of business was a public hearing for citizens to voice any concerns, ask any questions or offer any opinions about the four applications.

There were exactly zero. Not one question, complaint or comment.

The first applicant was Bird Dog Beverages, owned by Jennifer Harper and Ramona Mobley and located at 627 Shadrack St. That application was quickly approved by a unanimous vote of 5-0.

Applicant number two, Burke Beverage Outlet, owned by Nadeem Hirani and located in the Walmart shopping center, was approved 3-2. Council members Vickey Bates and Maurice McBride, who had called into the meeting by phone, voted against that location without giving any reason as to why.

Applicant number three is where things went sideways. The Package Store, located in what is now the laundromat at 505 West Sixth St., is owned by “Jerry” Patel. City administrator Valerie Kirkland said the location met the required setback distance from the Sixth Street Park per the city’s ordinance.

However, Bates spoke up quickly to question how that distance was measured and said the park should include the building that houses the city’s Sixth Street well and water works that is located adjacent to the park, even though it lies within its own fence, and I’ve never seen any children playing on the well equipment.

Bates said the proposed store was too close to the park in her opinion before making a motion to turn down Patel’s application. McBride gave it a second and the motion to deny the application passed 4-1, with Bill Tinley and Dick Byne agreeing with Bates and McBride. Willie Williams was the sole member to support Patel’s application.

Lastly, there was the application for Taylor Bros X-press Package Shop owned by Eddie Taylor and Kimberly Taylor. That store is planned to be housed in the old, red brick A & W Oil building at 1105 North Liberty St.

The catch with this location is the question of its proximity to three children’s daycare centers. Kirkland said the applicant did not meet the distance requirements set forth by the state for proximity to “schools,” if the daycare centers were considered schools. She asked the city attorney Randolph Frails for his legal opinion on the state’s definition of a school.

Frails’ response: “I would recommend approval,” which, of course, was not what Kirkland asked.

After further discussion, Frails relented and recommended council table the application until those questions could be answered.

I’m no legal scholar, but I’d say the council has a problem on its hands and the potential for their ham-handed actions to land them in court – again.

You see, it was at the city’s April council meeting that the question of why Waynesboro would need four liquor stores came up. It was Bates who assured those gathered that there would not be four liquor stores, which would give the appearance she had already made a decision without even reviewing the applications.

Tinley offered that the customers of Waynesboro would decide how many stores would remain in business by spending their money there, the same way every other business in this town operates. Although, when it came time to vote in the matter, he changed his mind.

As I’ve said many, many times before – unfortunately –

Waynesboro lacks any sort of real leadership these days. Rather than simply working within the confines of the law and ordinances, this council continues to put their thumbs on the scale and force preferred outcomes with little to no discussion in public.

That sort of operating procedure is bound to get you in trouble at some point. The real question is, when will this council figure that out and change the way they do business.

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