Lincolnton City Council members unanimously approved the modification of an ordinance to allow a local winery to serve alcohol on its sidewalk café at their meeting Thursday night.
According to Business and Community Development Director Brad Guth, the proposed ordinance change would allow only Southern Charm Winery patrons to consume wine in a sidewalk café.
No other businesses would be affected by the ordinance change.
“A business would have to have an on-premise consumption permit, and the types of businesses that are permitted by the ABC Commission to have an on-premise permit are very limited,” Guth said.
Southern Charm Winery owner Dwight Ramseur spoke to council members and residents about the positive impact the ordinance would have.
“I find that a large number of my patrons travel great distances to visit us,” Ramseur said. “We have people traveling from even Raleigh and Wilmington to see us, and it’s a letdown when they learn they are not able to sit outside and enjoy the ambiance of downtown Lincolnton.”
Some Lincolnton residents, such as Tom Hawk, vehemently opposed the ordinance.
“This is a camouflaged attempt to degrade our very critical downtown area, and to open this vulnerable area to further encroach and entice other undesirable businesses,” he said.
While Hawk did not necessarily disapprove of the winery selling a glass of wine in an outdoor setting to its patrons, he felt the language in the ordinance was not exclusive to Southern Charm Winery.
There were several business owners who spoke in favor of the ordinance, however.
Fausto Coffee co-owner Daniel “Jacob” Rhodes spoke highly of the winery and felt the ordinance could bring some much needed foot traffic to downtown Lincolnton.
“Southern Charm Winery serves a high-end product,” Rhodes said. “A lot of cities have ordinances like this one, and the fact is, if you go to any of these towns, you don’t see debauchery in the streets.”
Lincolnton business owner Cindy Sherrill echoed Rhodes’ support for the sidewalk café.
“We have to be forward thinkers in order to see Lincolnton survive,” Sherrill said. “We will not be able to build residential housing downtown if there are no activities for the residents at night. This won’t deteriorate our downtown; rather, it will enhance its attractiveness.”
An applicant’s request to construct a cell tower was also approved at Thursday’s meeting. SBA Network Services, LLC requested a conditional use permit to construct a 250-foot-tall wireless telecommunications tower in the Residential-25 district. The property, 28.99 acres in size, is located 600 feet north of Bethel Church road.
City Council members unanimously approved lowering the speed limit on Bonview Avenue during their public hearing. Lincolnton resident Sandy Dellinger addressed the council in December regarding her concern over the stoplight on the street. Presently, the stoplight is set on caution. Dellinger originally hoped the signal could be reverted back to a traditional stoplight due to safety concerns. However, police officials conducted a traffic study on the road, and the consensus was made that the speed limit should instead be lowered from 35 mph to 25 mph.
Lincolnton Police Department Chief Rodney Jordan also spoke at the meeting, and updated council members of the department’s accomplishments and current challenges.
In his presentation, Jordan explained that during the 2013 calendar year, 15,924 calls were made for service. There were 2,518 actual reportable crimes, with 802 arrests made and 1,500 arrest charges filed. The department also gave 1,110 citations. Officers also assisted with 30 planned special events in 2013, including numerous unplanned ones. Currently, Jordan said the police department is looking into the feasibility of creating a department Facebook page to more effectively and efficiently inform residents of crime and traffic updates.
Lincolnton’s City Council will hold its next meeting March 6 at 7 p.m. at City Hall.