Alcohol sales law could shrink Fort Oglethorpe

Alcohol sales law could shrink Fort Oglethorpe

March 16th, 2013 by Tim Omarzu in Local Regional News

Illustration by Laura McNutt /Times Free Press.

No booze, you lose.

In four words, that's what seems in store for Fort Oglethorpe as local lawmakers prepare legislation in Atlanta to deannex 42 acres on Battlefield Parkway from the Georgia city.

Fort Oglethorpe forbids Sunday alcohol sales, so the parcel will become part of Catoosa County, where voters in November approved Sunday sales of beer, wine and alcohol.

Northwest Georgia Bank sought the deannexation on behalf of an unnamed developer who wants potential restaurants and retailers to have the Sunday sales option.

State Rep. Tom Weldon, R-Ringgold, said the Fort Oglethorpe City Council could have put the Sunday sales question before the city's voters -- but chose not to.

"They didn't want to let the voters decide," he said. "That doesn't make sense to me."

Weldon said these types of de-annexations are uncommon.

"It's not something you see every day. But you may see more of it, if they don't put [Sunday sales] on the ballot."

Weldon said that he, state Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, and state Rep. Jay Neal, R-Chickamauga, support the deannexation legislation to be introduced Wednesday.

The 42-acre parcel is assessed at $4.1 million and generated $47,950 in property taxes last year to the city, county, schools and state. Deannexation will cost Fort Oglethorpe $11,081 in property taxes annually, based on 2012 revenue, according to Catoosa County Tax Commissioner Sandra Self.

Fort Oglethorpe City Councilman Johnnie "Red" Smith, a stalwart opponent of Sunday alcohol sales, isn't happy about the deannexation.

"I don't like it at all," Smith said. "[The legislators] should have come to us and sat down and discussed stuff."

Fort Oglethorpe voters could see Sunday sales on the November ballot after a special election Tuesday to temporarily fill the City Council seat of Eddie Stinnett, who died of a heart attack.

Whoever fills the seat could side with Councilman Earl Gray and Mayor Lynn Long for the three votes needed to put the question on the ballot.

Council candidate Judd Burkhart said he would cast the deciding vote to put Sunday sales before voters. Candidate Clay Kissner was less eager to do so -- but hadn't ruled it out.

Long sent a Feb. 25 letter to Mullis, asking him to hold off deannexing any Fort Oglethorpe property.

Mullis and Weldon wrote back on March 13 that they were duty-bound to promote the best interests of Catoosa County's residents and that "governmental limits on business operations negatively impact economic development and job creation."

The Catoosa County Commission sent a letter to the lawmakers unanimously asking them to support the deannexation.

"Anything to help get jobs in our county," County Commissioner Bobby Winters said.

If the parcel is developed and someday "they want to annex back into the city, [that] won't bother me," Winters added.