ASHLAND Dozens of passionate citizens poured into the Ashland City Commission chambers to voice resounding, collective opposition in regards to a request on the planning commission’s agenda.
The planning commission, a seven-member group that serves as a recommending body for the city commission, voted unanimously in the disapproval of a request by Blackburn Liquor, Inc., for a text amendment to the City of Ashland zoning ordinance to allow alcoholic beverages and packaged retail sales as a permitted used in Zone B1 — a mostly residential area in south Ashland.
The Patel family were the first people in five years, according to real estate agent Shane Craig, to make a “reasonable” offer on a piece of property in question — 2833 Blackburn Ave. and the adjacent parcel.
The Patels want to make a $1.5 million investment in the form of a liquor store near the intersection of 29th Street and Blackburn Avenue. In close proximity are two churches — Unity Baptist and Ashland Grace Church of the Nazarene — and a residential neighborhood.
Mark Maynard was one of numerous citizens who attended the full-capacity meeting. Several other avid south Ashland residents who objected to the move were gathered outside the city building, Maynard noted.
“One thing that makes Ashland very unique is in our neighborhoods, we have communities within the communities, with their own personalities and history,” Maynard said. “So far, none of them have liquor stores, and that’s the way we want to keep it.
“A packaged liquor store across the street from two churches and within a stone’s throw of schools where youth pass by every day … it’s not going to make Ashland better. It’s not going to bring people back,” Maynard said. “We’re polluting south Ashland.”
Residents also complained about potential traffic issues, which, they say, are already plentiful.
“From Giovanni’s (on Blackburn) to Shamrock Liquors is 1 mile,” Maynard added. “(Packaged stores) are all along 13th Street. Keep them there.”
James Lindsey, pastor at Second Freewill Baptist Church, also spoke in opposition to the text amendment. He shared a personal story about how alcohol affected his family and his life.
Steve Alley, Ashland’s deputy fire chief, Chuck Williams, Dave Williams, Cecilia Brown, Amy Compston and Jody Cage were among the several Ashlanders who spoke against the construction of a liquor store.
Steve McGinnis, a local attorney who also serves as the city attorney for Greenup, Bellefonte, Flatwoods and Vanceburg, was there along with the Patels as he represented them.
“There have been no problems at any of their 30 stores across the state,” McGinnis said. “… and they’re placing a store in the City of Greenup soon.”
McGinnis issued a challenge for Ashland.
“Is Ashland going to be a modern forward-looking city or is it going to have the image as one that is maybe sorta stuck?” McGinnis said.
Boyd County voters elected to go wet in November, McGinnis reminded. However, Travis Womack, a member of the planning commission, posed this question: What if this zoning ordinance already being in place factored into the vote? In other words, what if someone was OK with the county going wet knowing it wouldn’t infiltrate south Ashland?
Clark’s Pump-N-Shop, which is a short distance down the road is permitted to sell certain beverages — not wine or liquor. Also, a bourbon and brew house is set to open in June on 29th Street. However, many residents are throwing up a firm stop sign to the Patels and this potential venture.
Loretta Payne, of the planning commission, evoked an eruption of applause in the packed room when she said this to McGinnis: “If we OK this, this is going to be a slap directly into two churches. And then we’ve got a school just a few blocks down the street. It’s a very busy, busy intersection and I just do not see that we really need a packaged store there.”
McGinnis said the demand is present for a store such as this, even if it doesn’t wind up situated near the corner of 29th and Blackburn.
The planning commission will not recommend this amendment, however, it will ultimately be up to the city commission.
“We look forward to talking to the commission about what happened today and moving forward, hopefully, with a plan to increase economic revenue for the city and make the city a better place to live with our business,” McGinnis said.
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