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January 9, 2013
Oriental now has regulations making it difficult for internet sweepstakes parlours, tattoo shops, electronic gambling and other adult businesses to set up shop in much of town. On Tuesday night, the Town Board voted 4-0 to put those restrictions into the Town’s General ordinance and the Growth Management Ordinance.1,000 Feet From Homes Among The Restrictions
The new regs state that such businesses may not set up within 1,000 feet of a residence or a house of worship, daycare center, library, public park, public building and public recreational area, which effectively rules out much of town. Further, they’d be limited to Oriental’s MU District (Mixed Use — the red bits on the zoning map), and would require a Special Use Permit and a public hearing before opening up.
Another restriction: establishments serving food and alcohol may not set up as internet sweepstakes parlours. The regulations prevent bars or restaurants from having any electronic gaming.
Hours of operation would be limited to 10a-10p Sunday through Thursday and 9a-11p Friday and Saturday.
The Town’s Planning Board worked for months in the fall to draw up the restrictions; initially they were tasked with limiting only the internet sweepstakes parlours — where patrons “buy” internet access time on a computer where they can then see if they’ve won money. In time, the Planning Board decided to have other “adult entertainment” come under the same restrictions.To Restrict Or Not To Restrict At The Town Level
But then, for a moment Tuesday night, there was a suggestion to not place restrictions on the Internet Sweepstakes operations.
At the beginning of Tuesday’s sparsely attended public hearing on the issue, Mayor Bill Sage relayed advice from the Town Attorney, Scott Davis. Davis, said the Mayor, advised him that because of a NC Supreme Court ruling last month that lets the state restrict internet sweepstakes, the Town didn’t have to make its own regulations on the matter. (The NC Supreme Court’s take was that the NC Legislature’s restrictions on such parlours did not violate the First Amendment as the industry had claimed.)
In his comments to the Board, David White, a member of the Town Planning Board, persuaded the Commissioners not to follow the attorney’s advice. The internet sweepstakes industry has deep pockets, White told the Board and he noted that published reports have stated that the gaming industry would try to find legal loopholes in the state’s restrictions. As such, White said, the Town would be better off to have its own limitations in place, just in case the state’s rules on such parlours didn’t hold.
That is what the Town Board then did, after several Commissioners said they strongly agreed with White. The vote was unanimous.Audit Not PresentedThe Board did not hear the results of the audit performed on the Town’s bookkeeping. The Auditor did not attend the meeting as had been anticipated. Mayor Sage said it was a “clean audit” though he immediately followed that by saying that “small staff segregation of duties and responsibilities is a perennial problem with any small town that has limited personnel.” There were no numbers cited.
The South Avenue lawsuit, a second police car, the Town Hall renovation and its financing, and the fire siren, were just some of the other topics that came up at Tuesday night’s meeting.
For more on those stories, see the next page.