07/12/12 — New Internet parlor rules eyed

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New Internet parlor rules eyed

By Steve Herring
Published in News on July 12, 2012 1:46 PM

Internet or sweepstakes cafes would have to close by 11 p.m. and could not be closer than 1,000 feet to homes, churches and schools under a countywide zoning ordinance being considered by Wayne County commissioners.

A public hearing on the proposal, which would not apply to businesses inside any of the county's municipalities, will be Aug. 7 at 9:15 a.m. in the commissioners' meeting room on the fourth floor of the county courthouse annex.

The hearing is required before any action can be taken. After the hearing, the board could approve the zoning amendment as written, ask for changes, or not act at all.

Currently, the county has no ordinance in place governing the location and operation of Internet cafes. If an ordinance is approved, existing operations would have 12 months to become compliant with the new rules -- in some cases meaning they could have to shut down or relocate.

Up to two of the Internet machines would be permissible in a business and would not require a setback requirement.

It would prohibit alcohol sales or consumption at the sites, and the county fire marshal would establish an occupancy limit prior to submission of the operation's permit application.

The ordinance would set a maximum daily cash payout not to exceed $600 and any amount above that would have to be paid by check or credit.

It excludes state-approved lotteries, and would allow an electronic gaming operation as a permitted use in community shopping, light industry or height-restricted districts, as well as in all commercial operations in unzoned areas. It would not be a permitted use in village district zones.

As originally proposed, the setback was 300 feet and the hours of operation limited to 8 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week.

However, during the board's Tuesday meeting, Commissioner Jack Best was adamant that the distance be increased to at least 1,000 feet and the hours be reduced to 11 p.m.

Because of the larger plots in the county, the setback should be 1,000 feet or a quarter mile, Best said.

"Three hundred feet is not very far," Best said. "The other question I have got, is 12 o'clock at night? Does it have to go that late? Most people in the county go to bed earlier than that. If you have 10 or 12 or 15 cars surrounding the building then that is a kind of disturbance."

The city has 2 a.m. closing, County Planner Connie Price said. Best said he didn't care what others did.

"What we really don't want to do is set up Wayne County as a gambling junket, in my opinion," Best said.

Price said he could take the ordinance back to the Planning Board, but that it would further delay the process.

Best asked whether the county could go ahead and set the public hearing even before those changes were made. County Attorney Borden Parker said that the public notice for the public hearing had to be specific about the ordinance.

Parker said that unless the board changed the ordinance the one the public hearing would be on would include the 300-foot setback.

"You cannot advertise a public hearing without a particular document so the public can see what you are having the public hearing on," Parker said. "At the public hearing if someone says, 'No, I want two miles,' you can then adopt it to be two miles."

Best then made a motion to change the distance to 1,000 feet and the time to 11 p.m. It was approved by a 6-0 vote

Price said that the Planning Board had wanted the ordinance to be a stand alone that would be countywide, similar to how the county regulates certain other businesses such as junkyards, billboards and adult establishments.

Board Chairman John Bell asked Price to explain what an Internet cafe is.

"As I understand it is where you go in and try to win something," he said. "It is gambling that is what it is. It runs off computers, servers that are located offsite. You get a cash payoff. You leave with cash in your pocket that you didn't have when you got there."