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Cumberland ABC Store Expected

CUMBERLAND – Last month it was just a topic of discussion and this month the announcement about an ABC store locating in Cumberland County was officially made during the Board of Supervisors meeting last week.

The Virginia Department of ABC has authorized the issuance of a lease for an ABC store in Cumberland and the ABC has selected Randall Daves' property-the vacant site on Route 60 behind the Dixie Dream-for its new store.

“Building a new store rather than re-using an old building was one of their considerations and they also liked the proximity to a restaurant,” noted Greg Baka, Cumberland's director of community and economic development.

Even before the official announcement was made towards the end of the Board of Supervisors meeting on May 8, there was an outcry made by concerned citizens and pastors in the County to Cumberland's Supervisors. They spoke during the public comment segment at the beginning of the meeting.

The Public Speaks

Rev. Eddy Aliff, executive director of the Virginia Assembly of Individual Baptists, addressed the Board and stated that he was representing one specific church in the Cumberland area.

“Our concern is about the proposed ABC store that is going up at this time,” he said. “We've been told that it is something that is a done deal or is progressing forward pretty much. I have our letter from the Chairman of the ABC Board…I'm wondering if there wouldn't have been some better type of development that could have been brought in? Something that could have been more productive and more helpful… Is this in the best interest of the county?”

Rev. Aliff asked that the Board resend the request to the ABC Board.

“You do have a voice,” he said. “You have been elected and you could make a difference.”

After his comments, Supervisor Kevin Ingle, District Three, asked if he could provide clarification for those in the audience.

“I'd like to clarify one thing,” he said. “…You mentioned that our development director is the one that requested it. Well, he did it on behalf of a request by a Board member, which was me. So let's please not catch him in the middle of it. I raise my hand. I was the one that requested it.”

Cynthia Bassinger also spoke to the Supervisors about the proposed ABC store.

“I realize this didn't come across your board and you didn't have to vote for this ABC store,” she said. “But I also realize that because the land that the people are about to build on was business zoned they could do that without any trouble of coming through the Board of Supervisors or anything else. That tells me that anything can come into Cumberland County-if a piece of land is business zoned.”

She continued, “A strip club could come in. An adult bookstore can come in. Anything can come in… So, that brings up some concern to me…”

Ms. Bassinger said, “The citizens of the county should be heard on this. They should have an opinion about whether they feel like the price they are going to pay is worth the money that it's going to make the community. I've heard that there are jobs coming. There are actually three jobs coming-one full-time and two part-time. I've heard that it's going to keep drunk drivers off the road. I know people that drink…if they are going to drink they are going to drink whether it's five miles down the road or 20-miles down the road. But I will tell you that if it's five miles down the road they are quicker to get in the car and get the harder stuff…”

Rev. Samuel Trent spoke on behalf of Old Green Creek Baptist Church and also on behalf of his parents and family that still live in Cumberland, he said.

“Speaking on the ABC store, the proposed ABC store, everyone says it's a done deal and it's all over with but I want to let you know that there's a pastor in Cumberland County that is not for this ABC store. That's my main reason for being here,” he offered.

Rev. Trent said, “If the husband thinks he's going to go to the ABC store and spend Saturday evening at home and the wife comes in and says, 'we need to get some groceries,' now you've got someone on the road either going down 60 or 45 with an accident waiting to happen.”

“Then,” he continued, “you've got underage drinking. You are right here at the high school… Then, last but not least, there are three jobs coming. There are more things you can do in this county and get more jobs…”

Bill Bruce said, “…Don't punish those who are responsible. Don't let things hinder or block those things that are for the majority of the people who follow and admit to their decisions and follow the law.”

Rev. Cameron Cloud also addressed the ABC store locating to Cumberland.

“I speak for a number of our church members…and I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you. The issue I'd like to address tonight is the liquor store. Despite the arguments that it is simply about convenience for Cumberland residents the ultimate outcome of putting a store here is going to be the increased consumption of stronger drink because of easier access,” he said.

Rev. Cloud later addressed the revenue an ABC store could bring into Cumberland and said, “The idea behind this is that the ABC is going to simply shift around the current profits that they are making but let's be real. The liquor board is not going to invest putting a store here if they didn't believe it would increase both customers and profits. People say our county needs this revenue but I'd argue that when all of the costs are taken into account, it's arguable that this will not result in significant revenue and even if it did I'd argue that we don't need this kind of revenue. Increased revenue will come from increased sales and increased sales will come from increased consumption…”

Cyndi Mann said, “It come to my attention that it's so important to us to stop people from smoking and to ban smoking all over the place so people who enjoy a cigarette can't and, yet, they can get drunk as hell and drive down the road. I think it's pitiful. I honestly do.”

She added, “And I don't think an ABC store anywhere is going to make a difference. People who drink are going to drink. They are going to drive and they are going to kill people. I hope they don't kill any of my family and I hope they don't kill any of yours but I don't think that not having an ABC store here or having an ABC store is going to make a big difference. If they are drinking, they are drinking…”

Pastor Paulette Woodson later addressed the Board.

She said, “I grew up in Cumberland and I left and I came back and started a church, New Life Ministry in Cumberland County, and I oppose the decision…because there is so much drugs and crime already in this county and here we are opening up for more crime in the county.”

She added, “And, I know that for myself that there are more resources out there that we can tap into and get money to come into this county… Do you want to be like everybody else?”

Pastor Woodson also offered, “…We don't have a grocery store but now you're bringing in an ABC store. You know, I'm just asking… You were put here to make a difference. Weren't y'all? So let's not go with the crowd and I know that our God is bigger than this…God is bigger than any decision that we could ever make. All we have to do is acknowledge him and this county could be different.”

Zoning Information

According to information provided after the meeting by Bret Schardein, Cumberland's planning director, to The Herald, the property was originally rezoned from rural residential, R-2, to business, B-1, in 2008.

“Along with that rezoning came several conditions relating to the future use and design of the property, but none of those conditions addressed the sale of alcohol,” noted Schardein in the information. “Retail stores and liquor stores are both listed as by-right uses in business districts, but even if that use was not specifically listed in our code it would not prohibit the use because ABC stores are run by the state of Virginia, and the State is not subject to local zoning requirements.”

He continued, “The County would still review the site plan, but this only deals with the structure itself…the parking lot, the lighting, the signs, but that review does not regulate the actual use of the property. The building would also be subject to the Virginia Uniform Building Code, but again that only deals with the safety of the building itself, not the use inside it.”

Board Comments

After the announcement was made by Baka, Supervisor Bill Osl, District One, asked, “The state doesn't typically pay taxes to the locality? Right?”

Baka responded, “Correct.”

If an ABC store comes into Cumberland, according to Baka, there are limited revenues that will be seen by the County.

“The benefit, apart from the revenues, is that you have one other business or retail establishment that may create some spill-over to some businesses,” said Baka. “If you're buying one item at one establishment you might go to another establishment and buy another.”

The County would receive the real estate tax off of the new building because it is going to be leased, according to the discussion.

“The current owner will pay taxes,” he said. “So you will get real estate taxes but as far as the actual sales, that's one thing we haven't gotten hard numbers on.”

Supervisor Parker Wheeler, District Five, responded, “I don't think we'll get anything from it.”

“Yeah, that is something that is very limited-close to zero,” added Baka about the revenue.

Osl also stated, “Mr. Ingle mentioned that he had inquired about this…would they do that if this Board adopted a resolution saying that 'No, we don't want an ABC store?' I know we don't have to vote on it and I know we don't get a chance to vote on it but…”

Baka noted that he hasn't been faced with the situation posed by Osl in regard to a resolution and stated that he'd have that information for the Board at it's next meeting.

“I don't know,” he said when stating that he'd find out that information for the Board.

“I'm not sure how much authority we'd have to overturn this,” offered Chairman David Meinhard, District Four.

“We wouldn't be able to overturn it but if the people at the State understood that the local government, whether they did or didn't support it because I have no idea where everybody stands on it, but if it was a position that we didn't support it and didn't want it in the community then I think it would weigh heaviliy on their decision,” offered Osl.

Later, Supervisor Ingle voiced his opinion.

“In my personal opinion the value you can speculate and I think we've got enough people here tonight that's told us how they felt. But a lot of people didn't speak either. I do appreciate the people coming from out of town to speak tonight but if they're coming from out of town and if their county touches Cumberland County then they've got a liquor store near them.”

Osl also posed his position.

“I get torn on this too, Mr. Ingle,” said Osl. “I want to support the business coming in but then on the other hand I don't like continuing to ask for additional regulations to try to regulate people and what they can and can't do and so forth. That's part of the problem with this that bothers me…”

Ingle added, “Don't want to get wishy-washy with it. We want to stick with what the people have voted for and I say we stick with it and if the people want to contact the ABC Board themselves to make complaints, or whatever, I urge them to. Let their voice be heard by the source. Don't let it get mixed in translation with us, the County, by trying to give some kind of impression to the state.”

Subsequently, Supervisor Lloyd Banks, District Three, noted economic development in the County and said, “In my opinion, as a Board member elected by the people to govern this County, I don't think I was brought on board to sit on Sports Lake Road, cut the grass and be quiet. I think I was brought on to try to make a difference… What are the real results in economic development?”

Banks added, “I said two things were important-one of job growth and two was bringing in substantial business that would bring in substantial financial revenue. Job growth and revenue-and so what we have here is an ABC store that's not going to do either one of those. We hear that, okay, there's really no income we'll receive besides real estate taxes. We'll pass the plate and get you real estate taxes if that's what you need not to bring in the ABC store…”

“When we really look at economic development, what's been discussed tonight is that there's really no economic development through bringing in an ABC store. There's no jobs and there's no revenue…,” said Banks.