Mayor Jonathan McCollar followed through Tuesday on a promise to name a committee of citizens to provide input on rules for newly legalized liquor stores to locate and do business in Statesboro.
The first meeting of what he calls the ad hoc committee – meaning it was created for this one specific purpose – is slated for 4 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 14. It may not have long to work, since McCollar and the City Council are pursuing a suggested timeline that could lead to a first reading of the proposed ordinance, or city law, on liquor stores Jan. 4 during their first regular meeting of 2022.
In the meantime, the mayor and council plan to hold a work session the afternoon of Dec. 21, before their regular meeting at 5:30 p.m., with City Attorney Cain Smith directed to bring a draft ordinance reflecting the minimum requirements of state law, to which limited local variations and additions can be applied.
Last spring when council members acted to place a referendum on permitting liquor stores on the November ballot without first proposing an ordinance, the mayor promised to establish a committee for input on the rules on where the stores can be located and how they will operate. After 74% of participating Statesboro voters Nov. 2 approved allowing liquor stores, McCollar said he and Mayor Pro Tem Paulette Chavers, the District 2 council member, would be gathering names for the committee to be announced this week.
“The last time we had an opportunity to get together we resumed discussing package sales, and we discussed creating an ad hoc committee, and we’ve had several people inquire,” McCollar said during Tuesday’s 9:30 a.m. regular council meeting. “To date we have about 10 people that said that they wanted to be a part of it, and all 10 of those people will be a part of it.”
The 10 members
The 10 individuals he named to the committee are Todd Mackintosh, owner of the former Boyd’s BBQ building on Northside Drive West; Brian Harris, director of government affairs for Georgia Southern University; Jim Thibodeau, business development specialist for Core Credit Union; Cleve White with J.C. Lewis Ford; Lakeidra Lee, executive director of the Teal House, Statesboro Regional Sexual Assault & Child Advocacy Center; Raymond Scott from Transformations of Statesboro, an outpatient addiction treatment center; Doug Lambert, a director of the Development Authority of Bulloch County; Charlotte Spell, Drug Free Communities project coordinator for the Bulloch Alcohol and Drug Council; local attorney Marlan Jesse Eller; and Austin Stacy, regional staff representative for U.S. Rep. Rick Allen.
“So those will be the individuals that will serve on that ad hoc committee, and it’s the goal for us to meet for the first time at 4 p.m. on next Tuesday,” McCollar said.
He asked City Clerk Leah Harden to make sure the committee members are notified and receive the information on the state law that will be presented to the council, plus Smith’s recent survey of the liquor store ordinances of various Georgia cities.
After McCollar announced the committee, one citizen asked questions during the “public comments” time a few minutes later. Pam Hodges, whose family owns the County Line Package Shop on Georgia Highway 46 just inside Candler County, asked what the next step would be in the creation of Statesboro’s ordinance and when the council might vote to adopt it.
McCollar told Hodges she is welcome to attend the Dec. 21 work session and also said the committee’s 4 p.m. Dec. 14 is open for people to attend and listen.
“We definitely want to make sure that we get as much input and as much feedback as possible in regard to the ordinance,” he said.
When Hodges asked if any of the committee members had shown an interest in opening liquor stores, McCollar said, “not to my knowledge.” Councilman John Riggs asked Hodges if she wanted to be on the committee, but she said she was more interested in attending a hearing on the ordinance.
Mackintosh, the first listed member of the committee, had expressed interest during a previous meeting and related that interest to marketing his commercial property, but he did not say he wants to open a liquor store.
Councilman Phil Boyum commented that, beyond the Dec. 21 council work session, public hearings would be held “in January as we do the first and second readings of the ordinance.”
McCollar then said “the goal” is to hold a first reading of the ordinance at the council’s first regular meeting of the new year, slated for 9 a.m. Jan. 4.
“That’s the goal,” he said. “We’re ambitious, but we don’t want to say it’s going to be absolutely that, if council says we want to do this and do that and tweak it.”
The city’s procedural rules require two public readings, at separate regular meetings, of a proposed ordinance or amendment before the council votes to enact it. Those rules require a hearing only at the first reading. If substantially unchanged, an ordinance can then be enacted after the second reading without a new hearing. But any substantial change to the proposal would require another hearing.
If a first reading were held Jan. 4 and no substantial change made, the ordinance could be enacted as early as Jan. 18.
During a discussion in November, McCollar said he would veto any liquor store ordinance that does not limit the number of the stores in some way. He has since said that he favors a population-based limit on the number of licenses issued but remains open to some limit based on market demand.