ABC store raises eyebrows

by Tori Hamby

CHARLOTTE – Residents and storeowners near Callabridge Court in northwest Charlotte say they feel tricked and betrayed by the construction of an ABC store they claim caught them off guard.
When construction on the store began in August, area residents were curious about what type of business was opening at 9937 Callabridge Court. When they found out that the planned establishment was an ABC store, they said they felt confused that officials hadn’t notified the community beforehand.
“The concern is that the property backs up to the playground at McDonalds, so it’s not very conducive to an area for children,” said Cathy Morrison, speaking on behalf of six churches and several Callabridge Landing store managers at a Sept. 20 Board of County Commissioners meeting.
According to Michael Herring, chief administrator of the state ABC Commission, the Mecklenburg County ABC Commission approached the state in 2001 with a request to acquire land on the property to build the ABC store. The state’s Alcoholic Law Enforcement division performed an investigation and found the area suitable for the store.
After officially purchasing the property that year, in accordance with state law, the Mecklenburg County ABC commission posted a sign on the property voicing its intentions to build a store on the site. Law requires that the sign also displays a phone number for residents to call to voice their thoughts and concerns about the store and notifies them that they have 30 days from the sign’s posting to do so.
“We didn’t receive any objections from the community, so we continued with our plans,” Herring said.
However, that was almost 10 years ago, and times have changed, according to Morrison. Since then, several other businesses have popped up in the area, some such as McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A, which cater heavily to children. Morrison told county commissioners that she believes the county’s ABC board would have encountered many objections had the sign been posted 30 days before construction began, instead of almost a decade prior.
“The area has changed in the past 10 years and its not suited for an ABC store, as they may have thought at the time,” Morrison told commissioners.
Paul Stroup, chief executive officer of the Mecklenburg County ABC board said that it took ABC officials nearly 10 years to get the store off the ground because of financial constraints. Until August, he said the board felt it made more sense to open stores at other locations or to remodel existing stores. The board considered opening the store in 2002, 2004 and 2006, but felt that this year made the most sense financially.
Stroup added that the Mecklenburg County ABC board reposted the sign for days last June, but took it down after Herring told him the move was unnecessary because the store had already been approved.
“We found there was no reason to keep the sign up for any longer,” Stroup said.
At the meeting, Morrison told commissioners Herring told her that state law does not require officials to leave the sign up until construction completes, but that the practice is generally considered the norm.
Commissioner board chairman Jennifer Roberts told Morrison she would follow up on the complaint and encouraged others opposed to the ABC store to voice their opinions during the board’s October meetings or to contact the board.

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