08/22/12 — Fremont board makes no changes to Internet cafe rules

View Archive

Fremont board makes no changes to Internet cafe rules

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on August 22, 2012 1:46 PM

FREMONT -- The Fremont Town Board opted not to alter the town's ordinance concerning setback requirements between Internet cafes Tuesday night, a decision that will continue to mandate a separation of at least 500 feet between such gaming establishments.

The item came before the board due to a request by Internet Connections, which was considering opening up an Internet Cafe at 109 N. Wilson St.

Town Administrator Kerry McDuffie learned prior to the board's scheduled public hearing on the issue that the property in question had been rented out by another business, rendering the applicant's request -- despite already paying for the public hearing -- nearly moot.

But following the public hearing, during which no one spoke on the issue, board members entered lively debate, especially since the request to alter the ordinance was so broad that it could allow for the board to increase or decrease the setback requirement as it pleased.

"Based on their request, you could move it to 1,000 feet, right?" Mayor Darron Flowers asked McDuffie, who indicated that the spirit of the request was to reduce the requirement.

Alderman W.T. Smith noted that as small as Fremont's town limits were, such requirements would squeeze out potential Internet cafes, especially since they are allowed only within the town's general business district.

Smith also voiced concern about singling out Internet cafes, saying that if the request was for a bank to open up near another bank there would be little discussion.

"I think we're discriminating against one business," he said, adding there was nothing illegal about the establishments. "It's a legal business."

However, there is ambiguity as to the legality of such businesses, as a law passed in late 2010 designed to prohibit them from offering the computer-based sweepstakes games to the public was deemed void after a subsection of the law was found to be unconstitutional by Guilford County Superior Court Judge John Craig.

After that ruling, the state Attorney General's office appealed and the law has been in limbo ever since, with law enforcement awaiting guidance as to what operations are legal and which aren't, and businesses opening up all across the state.

Mayor Pro Tem Harold Cuddington made a motion to deny any changes to the ordinance, while Alderman Leon Mooring seconded it.

Smith was the only dissenting vote in a 5-1 decision to deny the measure.

The board next turned its attention to a request from the N.C. Department of Transportation concerning street paving.

The state agency requested that the town prioritize the 36 portions of road within Fremont to be repaved. Repairs on all the streets would cost $289,3090, but the town was charged with reducing the scope to about $90,000.

Flowers suggested that the town staff determine which streets should make the short list and the board agreed that would be the best course of action.

Discussions concerning changes in the way the town would reimburse Wayne County for foreclosed properties fizzled as McDuffie and the board determined that it should be tabled until more information about the changes could be gathered.

The board then approved the $98 reimbursement of a citizen who paid for garbage pickup but did not receive satisfactory service. The repayment was to be credited on the citizen's light bill.

The town board also agreed to change its water usage policy to mirror that of its sewer usage policy in the event of severe overages.

In the case that warranted discussion at the meeting, a customer used some 26,100 gallons of water during a month -- well over her normal usage average over the last six months.

The customer reported that a garden hose had been left on accidentally in the backyard.

The board determined to allow customers who record unusually large amounts of water usage and also request leniency to be able to pay the wholesale price for water used in excess of the customer's six-month average.

Customers in such cases would pay the same amount that the town pays Wayne Water Districts, similar to the town's policy concerning sewer, which is treated by Goldsboro.

In closing, Cuddington noted that there were many lots within the town limits that needed to be cut and maintained better.

Flowers cited an article in Sunday's News-Argus which noted the county was looking to fine owners of such lots $250 a day until they were cleaned.

He suggested a fine of even $10 a day could serve to cut down on poorly maintained lots in the town.