08/06/12 — Hearing on rules for Internet cafes planned

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Hearing on rules for Internet cafes planned

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 6, 2012 1:46 PM

A $70,000 economic development incentive for Mt. Olive Pickle Co., an application for $221,865 in state transportation funds for the GATEWAY bus system and proposed rules regulating Internet cafes will be the topics of three public hearings when Wayne County commissioners meet Tuesday morning.

The hearings will start at 9:15 a.m. in the commissioners' meeting room on the fourth floor of the county courthouse annex.

If approved, the $70,000 would pass through Mt. Olive Pickle Co. to the town of Mount Olive to assist with a major water improvement project. To be considered for the incentive, the pickle company has committed to making $10 million in investments in real property including land and improvements, machinery and equipment over the next five years.

Mount Olive has received just over $2 million from the state for the addition of water lines and a new well and filtration system to improve water quality -- particularly in the area of the pickle plant.

The $70,000 would be appropriated from the county's economic development reserve, and used by the town to help meet local match requirements for the state grant.

The company currently employs 846 permanent and seasonal workers -- jobs that would be protected by the water improvements, County Manager Lee Smith said. The agreement would be for five years, but Smith has said the money would be paid back in two years as the county benefits from growth in the tax base.

The second hearing is for the annual application for Rural Operating Assistance Program that will be submitted to the North Carolina Department of Transportation. The programs included in the application are:

* $89,622 for the Elderly and Disabled Transportation Assistance Program that provides operating assistance for the public transportation of elderly and disabled citizens.

* $33,827 for the Employment Transportation Assistance Program that provides operating assistance for the public transportation of persons with employment related transportation needs.

* $98,416 for the Rural General Public Program that provides operating assistance for the public transportation of persons living in non-urban areas of the county.

The third hearing will be on a proposed county-wide ordinance that would regulate Internet or sweepstakes cafes even in areas where there is no county zoning. It would affect the businesses located inside municipalities and would exclude state-sanctioned lotteries.

The county currently has no ordinance governing the location and operation of the 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.

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.

Under the proposal the cafes would have to close by 11 p.m. and could not be closer than 1,000 feet to homes, churches and schools.

The proposal 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.