11/06/05 — Pikeville sets sights on alcohol sales vote

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Pikeville sets sights on alcohol sales vote

By Turner Walston
Published in News on November 6, 2005 2:17 AM

Pikeville residents will decide Tuesday if they will allow the sale of malt beverages and unfortified wine for off-premises consumption in town.

As written, the referendum would allow sales by convenience and grocery stores, but not bars and restaurants. The same referendum was voted down in 1992, 1997 and 2002.

The motion to add the beer and wine referendum to this year's ballot came before the town's commissioners in August. It passed by one vote.

Mayor Herb Sieger said the sale of beer and wine would provide an opportunity for growth in the town. He said the construction of the new Highway 117 corridor prompted calls to revisit the referendum proposal.

"I think the highway is the avenue that really opens the approach to us," Sieger said. He said town's fortunes could turn, one way or the other, based on the corridor. "With the coming of the highway, we're either going to fold or expand. You either grow or die."

Sieger said the highway, combined with the ability to sell beer and wine in Pikeville, would make the town more attractive to businesses.

"We are faced with an opportunity to plan for growth in the future," he said. "The interchange will provide access to commercial development, resulting in increased economic value to the town."

Town commissioners Johnny Weaver and Bruce Thomas voted against adding the referendum to the ballot.

Weaver said town residents have already told the commissioners how they feel about the alcohol sales, voting down the measure three times in the last 10 years. Town residents defeated malt beverage proposals by votes of 212 to 74 in 1997 and 138 to 113 in 2002. Residents also turned down an unfortified wine proposal in 2002 by a vote of 138 to 117.

Weaver said the new highway should be able to sell itself, adding the town does not need to add alcohol to the mix to push the benefit of its new transportation advantage.

"There's virtually no economic benefit that I can see," Weaver said.

Weaver said citizens interested in the sale of beer and wine could petition the town. Meanwhile, the board should not meddle in something that has failed many times before, he said.

""If someone wants it out there, let them come to us," he said. "They've said three times they didn't want one. I just don't think we should be bringing it up again."

Thomas said reconsidering the proposal should be left up to the residents.

"The town had already voted on it and said no," he said. "I figured if they wanted to have it, they could get a petition on it."

Weaver said Pikeville residents are making their wishes known prior to Election Day.

"I've seen three or four letters in the paper that were opposed, and that's pretty strong for a little town like Pikeville, because usually people don't really get involved," he said.

Sieger said he recognizes there is opposition to adding alcohol on moral grounds, but added that residents should consider the town's future.

"This is not a moral issue, but an economic issue," he said. "It's been faced as a moral issue."

Adding alcohol will not change the town, he said.

"Pikeville is a lovely, friendly, healthy place to live and raise families. The passage of this referendum will in no way diminish that."

Sieger said the sale of beer and wine would in fact increase the quality of life in Pikeville by adding to the tax base.

"We're not going to get any great amount of money from the sale of alcohol. It's the businesses that will bring in property taxes."

Sieger said he is not discouraged by the previous votes.

"Nearly everything we have that has advanced in life has failed before it has finally come to fruition," he said.

Weaver said he is confident there will be another "no" vote Tuesday.

"If the concerned citizens of the town get out and vote, then it'll be defeated," he said.