This November, Harrisburg residents will vote on a referendum that could allow the town council to move forward with building its own ABC store within town limits.Some council members think the liquor store could help provide residents some property tax relief, but others think the venture is too risky.If the referendum passes, the town council will have to appoint a local ABC board and eventually vote on whether to move forward and build the store.Council members Phil Cowherd, Steve Sciascia, Jeff Phillips and Rick Russo voted to add the referendum. Brian Leepard, Chad Baucom and David Isaacs voted against it. “This is an opportunity to go directly to the voters and get their opinion,” said Cowherd. “We will get their opinion in November and, assuming we have a majority opinion on that, then we’ll establish an ABC board … that will work with the state ABC board to determine if this will be a viable venture.”Cowherd said the store would likely be in the Brookdale shopping center, off Rocky River Road and Interstate 485.“At least looking at the initial numbers, there’s some monies to be made here,” said Cowherd. “I think those numbers need to be verified, but I think it’s a good thing anytime you can take some relief off the property taxes. …”The referendum couldn’t be added during the presidential election, two years from now, which means the next opportunity to vote on the referendum would have been four years from November.“I’m not sure if the market’s there, but that will be ascertained,” said Cowherd. “You can’t move forward in the process without this vote. You have to have voter approval.”Leepard said the referendum is in no way a guarantee an ABC store will be built in Harrisburg.“I want voters to take the time to look at the numbers, do the research and make a decision for themselves,” he said. “If they vote yes on this, I want to move forward with it because the residents said they want one. But I don’t want the town to lose money. If we lose money, that’s the taxpayer’s money going down the drain.”ABC representatives told Harrisburg’s Economic Development Corporation not to expect the store to be a cash cow, said Leepard, and that each store must make about $1million per year to stay profitable.With two stores within 3 miles of Harrisburg, it’s not the best investment, said Leepard. “Financially, the numbers just don’t look good,” said Leepard. “We’re losing $274,000 a year in beer, wine and liquor, according to a recent leakage study we had performed. So how am I going to justify voting for something when it’s going to require a million dollars in revenues and we already have a leakage of $274,000?”Mike Brown, a former town council member for six years, said he’s in favor of the referendum, but he’s against building an ABC store. Brown motioned to add a referendum to allow liquor sales by the drink several years ago, said he thinks the referendum will pass.“Times change, the population changes and the will of the citizens changes,” Brown said. “I think what this says is if there’s an opportunity that’s in the best interest of the community, we should make it legal to pursue that opportunity.”Whether Harrisburg can meet the $1million quota or not isn’t the issue for Brown.“But I wouldn’t gamble a million dollars to find out,” he said. “The other thing that’s relevant is there some discussion in Raleigh about privatizing liquor sales.“And I would hate to see the town spend a million dollars to put up a liquor store and a year later, the state privatizes liquor sales.”Casey Stevenson has worked in the area for about 15 years and visits ABC stores less than 10 times a year. “I don’t think it’s going to hurt anything to have an ABC store in this area, but it’s not going to bring in anything that’s not already here,” he said, “though the revenue from liquor sales would stay in Harrisburg and that could possibly lower property tax rates.”As long as it’s profitable, Stevenson couldn’t think of any cons to allowing another ABC to be built. “It’s not like you’re putting up a shady pool hall or something,” he said. “They’re all very respectable stores, and they always check peoples’ IDs. It’s not like it’s going to create more drinking by having it.”
Monday, Sep. 09, 2013
Harrisburg to vote on adding ABC store
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