A request to open an internet sweepstakes parlor on East Ash Street in a residential area of the city drew opposition from residents during a Monday public hearing.
Michael Carroll is seeking a conditional-use permit allowing the opening of the sweepstakes business at 706 E. Ash St., in a shopping center near Lionel Street. The site is adjacent to the Wayne County Health Department and near the Herman Park Center.
"Tonight, we've been asked to open an internet cafe in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city," Bill Keel, who spoke during the Goldsboro Planning Commission hearing, during Monday's Goldsboro City Council meeting.
"Gentlemen, we have students passing that area every day, walking to Goldsboro High School, the parks and (recreation) facility, Herman Park and families with kids going to the health department or to the bus stop.
"If you look at the large preponderance of evidence in the history of sweepstakes parlors, they're illegal and they become crime spots."
Keel also criticized the industry's attempt to remain open in cities and counties across the state by changing software programs to comply with state law.
"That's really no different than what they're doing in organized crime," Keel said. "(They) change business practices to fit the law."
Carroll is seeking the permit to open the business with 40 gaming stations inside a 3,750-square-foot tenant site at the end of the shopping center, near Kentucky Fried Chicken. The hours of operation would be from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m., seven days a week.
Carroll is also asking for a residential site-distance modification from city zoning rules. The city's unified development ordinance prohibits the location of internet sweepstakes business within 200 feet of a school, church or residence. The shopping center's rear parking lot is located alongside homes in the Lionel Street neighborhood.
"That backs up to a residential area," Keel said. "There's a home that parks their cars in that same area."
The city's ordinance allows the location of internet sweepstakes parlors in shopping centers, general business districts, highway business and general industry districts.
Several other people spoke in opposition to the opening, citing concerns about crime, trash and the overall affect on the poor.
"I've seen men waste their whole paychecks at internet cafes," said Ravonda "Pinky" Jacobs. "I've seen mothers waste their whole afternoons at internet cafes.
"I have seen what these do and that is one of our core neighborhoods and we are trying to uplift that neighborhood. The last thing we want to do is give our people the option to be lazy, honestly. This is more than just a money issue."
The planning commission will review the request during its Monday meeting, at 7 p.m., in City Hall. The commission will decide whether to recommend approval or denial to the city council, which will make a final decision on March 6.
The internet sweepstakes permit request is the fourth the council has received since late 2016. Three permits have been approved, allowing sweepstakes operations to open at 1813 N. Berkeley Blvd. near New Hope Road, 1716 U.S. 117 South in the former Longhorn Business Center and 211 N.C. 11 South in the Southeast Plaza. Another sweepstakes business already met city zoning standards and has been open at 1312 W. Grantham St., in the Little River Square shopping center, off U.S. 70.
Also during Monday's hearing, a group of video game enthusiasts spoke in favor of a permit request for the future opening of a video game lounge at 207 S. Berkeley Blvd. The location is within the Village Square shopping center, near Elm Street and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.
The applicant, Tim Gill, made it clear to the council and commission that the business would not include any internet sweepstakes activity.
"I am not sweepstakes at all," Gill said. "We're all a bunch of gamers."
Gill is asking for a conditional-use permit to open the business that would be limited to six video game stations, video game products and card sales. The permit would prohibit internet sweepstakes activity inside the building.
"I've been here 25 years, and I haven't seen anything like this before except for an arcade in the mall," said Lawrence Washington during the hearing.
Daniel Pasky said the business would offer more to do in the city besides go to the movie theater or bowling alley.
"I would just like a place I could go hang out with my friends and do something fun, relaxing and not negative," Pasky said. "It's also in a safe location. It's right there up next to the base."
The permit request will also be reviewed by the planning commission Monday.