Pigeon Forge considers alcohol policies

Beer ordinance, education committee discussed at work session
Jun. 20, 2013 @ 11:57 PM

Now that the city allows the sale of liquor by the drink and receives tax revenue from those sales, officials are considering making changes to the city's beer ordinance to conform to state standards, as well as creating a committee to review which projects to direct the money towards.

During a City Commission work session Tuesday afternoon, city attorney Jim Gass explained his proposal to amend the city's beer ordinance to conform to the state's Alcoholic Beverage Commission ordinances regarding liquor sales, in the event of an inconsistency between the two.

"It would be an enforcement headache, a nightmare in some situations, for the police department to say, well those folks are only selling beer and a different rule applies if you're selling a mixed drink," Gass explained.

Gass referenced patio sales and services as one potential situation for discrepancy.

"In the event that there's a different standard of the ABC as it relates to patio sales and services, that would be one real area of concern for the police department for enforcement," Gass said. "It would seem logical to make a consistent application in line with what the ABC has, so if there's an inconsistency, the prevailing ABC rule will apply."

Streamlining the beer ordinance would also make it easier on the city's Planning Commission when approving new site plans for businesses that intend to sell alcohol.

Gass discussed creating another ordinance to appoint a committee that would choose which educational projects would receive funds from tax revenue generated by liquor sales.

"All the money goes to educational purposes, but I think it's done differently in various cities," Gass said. "We could have an ordinance that would create a project committee that you all would appoint members to, and they would review projects submitted by the school system and school principals for funding."

Mayor David Wear requested setting the number of members on the committee at either five or seven, and also setting term limits. There was also discussion of whether any committee members should come from certain sectors of society.

Wear referenced several sectors that might provide knowledgeable members. He felt that having a school board member, a city commission member, a member of the business community and a resident with school experience, such as a retired teacher, would benefit the committee, which would meet at least once a year.

"But then again," Wear said, "maybe you shouldn't start pigeonholing those certain spots. Maybe you just appoint who you think is best instead of structuring it."

Commissioner Jay Ogle suggested structuring half of the committee and leaving half open to anyone.

The project committee would distribute funds to each of the three schools in the corporate limits of the city, but there's no state statute that provides a guideline for what percentage each school receives.

"There are three schools within corporate limits, so you might want to say in the ordinance whether no more than one third of the total annual funds in one year be distributed to any one school," Gass said.

Commission Howard Reagan suggested changing the specific language of "three schools" and "one third" to more general terms.

"You wouldn't have to say three schools, just say divide it among the city's schools equally," Reagan said. "So even if you added another school, you'd just add it to the equation."

The commission also discussed what kinds of projects to use the funds for, noting that the intent of the additional funds is not to supplement already budgeted items, Wear said.

Gass said the language of the ordinance could require that the funds always be used for projects that are "non-mandatory educational needs which the county is not required to fund by state regulation or law."

The commission also decided not to fund personnel salaries, except for a possible summer supplement for guidance counselors.

Gass said he would put together drafts of the ordinances for the first commission meeting in July.

rhargett@themountainpress.com