Hart County Board of Commissioners
February 18th, 2003
The Hart County Board of Commissioners held a called meeting February 18th, 2003 at 7:00 p.m. in the Hart County Administrative & Emergency Services Center.
Chairman Randy Banister called the meeting to order and announced the purpose of the meeting is to reconsider Joe Crowe/Crowe’s Nest Beer & Wine application that was denied on January 28th, 2003 as requested by Mr. Crowe.
Chairman Banister gave an opening statement and cautioned those attending that there will be no outbursts. He stated that comments concerning beer and wine or alcohol in general are not relevant to the Crowe’s application.
Chairman Banister asks County Administrator, Gary Cobb, to complete the record on the decision of February 11th, 2003.
Administrator Cobb introduced and gave copies to the Board and to Mr. Crowe the following:
A) The January 28th, 2003 minutes showing the grounds for denial
B) The letters notifying Mr. Crowe of the denial
C) The Crowe's letter of appeal
D) The letter notifying Mr. Crowe of the appeal hearing
Chairman Banister turned the floor over to Mr. Crowe, as applicant, for the presentation of evidence in support of the application.
Mr. Crowe remarked that he stands for Americanism and for people’s rights. He asked Chairman Banister if it still stands as it did before that he hasn't complied with the ordinance. He stated that he does have a right to have a license, other than what the Board has said as far as evidence against it. He said they have done everything that was asked of them to do.
Chairman Banister quoted the sections of the ordinance that were used to deny the application as follows:
· The nature of and effect on the neighborhood adjacent to the business
· Evidence presented to the Board of Commissioners in opposition of issuance of the license
Mr. Crowe responded that the nature of and effect on the neighborhood adjacent to the business was speculation of what would happen; and nature of and effect on the neighborhood would be more for a renewal application. He stated that his rights have been violated, he was discriminated against, and he was set aside and singled out because he has complied with the rules and regulations.
Mr. Crowe addressed some of the things that were said at the last meeting starting with Judge Bryant's comments, spoken on behalf of the neighborhood. Judge Bryant's previous comment were he strongly opposed the location of the building, that the facility would devalue property in the area and he requested that the ordinance be amended the distance requiring 350’ from a residence. Mr. Crowe further stated that zoning and a lot of problems in the neighborhood, which had nothing to do with them, was discussed in the January 28th, 2003 meeting.
Mr. Crowe stated that he does not promote alcohol however; people have a right to break the law if they are willing to pay the consequences for breaking the law. He addressed the statement that Dean Kring made at the January 28th meeting that alcohol is a mind-altering substance and about drinking and driving. Adding that was Mr. Kring’s personal opinion. He added that he takes social responsibility to promote designated drivers in anyplace that serves alcohol.
Mr. Crowe asked the Chairman if he had a personal conviction that alcohol is totally wrong for everybody. The Chairman responded that the purpose of the hearing is for Mr. Crowe to present evidence to support his position.
Mr. Crowe said he did not understand why the board voted unanimously to renew the VFW’s beer and wine application.
Mr. Crowe said he has improved the building and the property and he does not understand the evidence used against him.
Charlotte Crowe said the area is not strictly residential. She did not see evidence that it was the wrong type of facility in the location. She added that there is a boat storage facility, a golf cart facility in the area, a vacant building and rusted gas tanks before you get to the entrance of Mattie’s Orchard.
She said the Crowe’s Nest is a restaurant with three pool tables and a jukebox, which people come in to have fun from 7 to 70 years old. She said they have not had an effect on the neighborhood. She said she did not believe they have been given the proper right and that they are concerned about the neighborhood.
Mr. Crowe remarked that the evidence is concrete against them; he said they have complied with the ordinance, made improvements and have not had any problems.
Charles Ledford spoke on behalf of Joe Crowe supporting his right to obtain a beer and wine license. He said the previous meeting was an embarrassment to listen to. He said the show of hands in the crowd was out of order. He said Judge Bryant dictated to the Board, that they knew what they had to do. He added that the Board members are not on the Judge’s payroll that they work for the citizens of the county. He said the Crowe’s deserves a chance to see if the business works.
Mr. Ledford said everyone deserves the freedom and the potential to do whatever is possible in this country. He added that the Board needed to vote accordingly, not according to public opinion.
Clara Bowers Bostic said she was here on behalf of the U.S. Constitution. She said if the Crowe’s have met all the criteria of the beer and wine ordinance they should not be discriminated against. She said it is their rights, adding that there is a separation between church and state.
Chairman Banister asked those in attendance whether they wished to offer evidence in support of the application. No one came forward. He then asked if there were persons present who wished to offer evidence in opposition.
Vince Latone remarked that Old Hwy 29 area of Hart County is residential. He said the Crowe’s do not own property in the area and therefore, do not have a vested interest in maintaining its integrity as a peaceful residential neighborhood. He added that putting a bar in the middle of Old Hwy 29 area would cause irreversible harm. He asked the board to protect the citizens instrusted in their care from this harm.
Mr. Crowe responded that Mr. Latone has the right to his opinion. He said they could handle being in the neighborhood and would compliment it.
Mrs. Crowe clarified Mr. Latone's reference to the facility being a bar. She stated that the facility is a restaurant.
Judge Bryant remarked that he did not know the Crowe’s and had nothing against them. He addressed the comment regarding “rights”. He said he didn’t have a right to anything except what’s stated in the Constitution. He said that he read the beer & wine ordinance and didn’t read anything in it that said anyone has a right to a beer and wine license because they are an American or fought in the war. He said it’s not discrimination to deny someone a beer & wine license in a residential neighborhood.
Judge Bryant remarked about the Crowe’s cleaning the place up. He reported that there are five vehicles on the lot owned by the Crowe’s. Adding that a beer delivery truck would not be able to get into the establishment without blocking off Stovall Circle or Old 29. He said he has a right to live peacefully in his old age.
Judge Bryant said the Crowe’s admitted that they have three pool tables and those individuals from 7-70 years old visiting the establishment. He said seven years old would not be coming from their neighborhood. They are coming from other counties and other areas. He added that he understood Mr. Crowe’s rights to have a beer and wine license where it is suitable to the neighborhood. However, the residential area on Old 29 is not a suitable place for a beer and wine license. He concluded by stating that there is no similarity between the Crowe’s Nest and the VFW. He said the VFW is a private club that was built before the homes were built in the area. He urged the Board to sustain the decision they made January 28th.
Mr. Crowe responded that children come to the establishment with their parents and he questioned how the establishment would hurt the neighborhood. Judge Bryant responded that the primary concern is the location.
Diane Latone reported that there are 400 residential homes on Old 29 Hwy. She addressed the issue. She complained about the outdoor lighting shining in residence windows and karaoke could be heard ¼ mile away from the facility. She reported that the sewage line from the travel trailer is hooked up with the same septic system as the facility. She added that the establishment would have an adverse effect on the neighborhood.
Commissioner Reyen reported that he talked with an individual at the Health Department and was told that the travel trailer was not on site at the time of the initial inspection.
Commissioner Dorsey remarked that there was a restaurant at the location before and urged everyone to remain focused on the issue.
Mrs. Crowe presented a letter from the Health Department that they had passed inspection. She said they do not live in the building and the travel trailer was on the lot before, which should not be an issue.
Connie Peters said that she did not have anything against the Crowe’s. However, when you have a place that sells beer and wine, eventually you are going to have trouble. Adding that she does not want this type of business in the neighborhood.
Mr. Crowe remarked that he has made an investment in the establishment.
Ray Lewis stated that he has lived in the area all his life. He encouraged the Board to go by the law and ordinance. He presented an aerial map of the area as evidence of the highly populated residential area for the record.
Commissioner Dorsey questioned why no one opposed the license for the VFW that was granted January 28th. Mr. Lewis responded that the majority of the people at the meeting were from Old 29 area.
Judge Bryant responded that the VFW was built before the homes were and that their application was a renewal.
Dean Kring remarked that he was not opposed to beer and wine. Adding that they are trying to protect their community.
Mr. Crowe remarked that he wished there was a way to resolve the issue.
Mrs. Crowe added that she is concerned with what goes on in the county, not just her neighborhood.
John Howard said that he attended the previous meeting and that a great injustice has been done to the Crowe’s. He remarked that Hart County does not have zoning, land use, building codes or inspection. Adding that he felt that there a double standard in the community.
Chairman Banister responded that there are no double standards. He quoted the section of the beer & wine ordinance pertaining to the nature and effect and the evidence presented in opposition.
Mr. Howard asked if the establishment were Catachee, Vickery Parke or Mattie’s Orchard Clubhouse would they deny them a license.
Mr. Crowe ended by stating on behalf of his request that he be given the opportunity and right to have a beer and wine license whether he chose to sell beer & wine or not.
Commissioner Oglesby read the official oath of office that each commissioner took as they were sworn in. Commissioner Oglesby entered a motion to grant the beer & wine license to Mr. Crowe. Commissioner Dorsey provided a second to the motion.
Commissioner Reyen said that he has heard a lot of claims that Mr. Crowe’s rights were denied however, no one has addressed the issue. He said he has not heard anything at the hearing that has changed the residential nature of the neighborhood in the last three weeks, or that he was wrong with his decision before.
Commissioner Dorsey remarked that this is a cut a dry issue, that what they do for one establishment that they have to do for all, adding that the VFW is in a residential area. However, their application was not questioned.
Commissioner Carter said if this was a cut and dry issue there wouldn't be a reason to be here tonight. He remarked that according to the county ordinance the Board has a right to deny beer & wine licenses. Adding that the residents on Old 29 have rights and people have a right to live in a peaceful community. He said that is what he is basing his decision on. He ended his comments by stating that it is high time that we have a Board of Commissioners that are willing to do the right thing. He asked Attorney Gordon to summarize the language of the beer and wine ordinance.
Attorney Gordon summarized the pertinent section of the beer & wine ordinance.
Commissioner Oglesby remarked that he is a minister but must separate his government decisions from Christianity. He added that the Board consider what the ordinance states and give the Crowe’s a chance to either make it, or fail.
Chairman Banister responded that the law gives the commissioners discretionary power and denied his opposition based on his religious beliefs. He added that the beer and wine ordinance is to protect the county.
Chairman Banister called for the vote. The vote was 2 in favor (Commissioners Oglesby and Dorsey) and 3 opposed (Chairman Banister, Commissioners Reyen and Carter).
Commissioner Reyen entered a motion to uphold the original denial of the Crowe's license application. Commissioner Carter provided a second. Vote 3 in favor (Commissioners Reyen, Carter and Chairman Banister) and 2 opposed (Commissioners Oglesby and Dorsey).
Commissioner Reyen entered a motion to adjourn the hearing. Commissioner Carter provided a second to the motion. The motion carried 5-0.
Randy D. Banister, Chairman Lawana Kahn, County Clerk