Buncombe County residents in unincorporated areas waiting for the green light on Sunday alcohol sales before noon will have to wait a bit longer. The Board of Commissioners voted on the measure when they met earlier this week, but it will take a second vote for final approval.
County staff also informed the board that an expansion project for the transfer station is going to be more than $1 million over budget.
Sunday morning coming down
In the wake of the N.C. General Assembly approving legislation that allows cities and towns to approve the sale of alcohol before noon on Sundays, a number have done so. Commissioners are looking to allow for such sales in unincorporated areas of the county, such as Swannanoa. The law allows for restaurants and grocery stores to sell alcohol starting at 10 a.m. but does not allow for state-run ABC stores to open.
“I just can’t support this Sunday morning alcohol. I don’t think we are talking enough money,” said Commissioner Robert Pressley, referring to the additional money businesses would bring in during the extra two hours. “I feel Sunday morning is when you feel the safest on the highway, and I would like to keep it that way.”
Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara expressed support for the initiative but also wanted to highlight the realities of addiction when living in Beer City, U.S.A. “We live in a town where beer is a big driver. It brings with it some responsibilities to make sure we make sure people are safe and can get help. I would invite more concretion in the community about DUI rate and make sure we promote where people can get help,” she said.
“I would rather there be no sales at all on Sunday, but that’s not the way it is,” said Commissioner Joe Belcher. “I can’t support this, but it’s not a reflection on the businesses. It’s simply not good for families of Buncombe County.”
Commissioner Al Whitesides noted that while he believes in family time and responsibility, “I didn’t run to be the moral police.”
He added: “We have the right to make our own decisions. I might not agree with them, but that’s the American way. I believe in the principles of freedom, giving people the right to choose. I think it’s only fair so businesses will be competing on level playing field.”
Commissioner Mike Fryar weighed in that there are pros and cons to the situation, but people will likely just drive to where they can buy alcohol. “Al, you just said it right. We’d be punishing a certain amount of people. I was going to go no, but now I’ll probably say yes. It’s a hard one.”
And while the ordinance was approved by a 5-2 vote, with Belcher and Pressley voting against it, it still is not the law of the land. As the county’s attorney explained to commissioners, a first-time ordinance must be approved unanimously, or appear a second time and receive a consecutive simple majority. Commissioners agreed to place it on the Aug. 15 agenda, and barring unforeseen circumstances, it is likely to be approved at that date.
Buncombe County is renovating and expanding its current transfer station on Hominy Creek Road, an $8.2 million project. County Planning Director Jon Creighton said the effort is on track but bids for concrete and other site work are coming in $1.5 million over budget. “Prices are coming in higher than anticipated. It’s the first time in my career I’ve ever said I need more money. We are borrowing from ourselves and have capacity for the extra money,” said Creighton.
Commissioners did not have any questions for Creighton and unanimously approved the additional funding. The cost of the project now stands at $9.7 million and is being paid for through the Solid Waste Enterprise Fund.
The commissioners’ next meeting is slated for Tuesday, Aug. 15.