ALBANY, GA (WALB) –An Albany entrepreneur wants to tear down a dilapidated building and build a new business that would create jobs and bring in tax revenue, but city commissioners say no. The reason?
The business is a liquor store. And people from nearby Albany State University and a church oppose it.
That businessman could end up suing the city.
During a lengthy public hearing last night, commissioners were warned that they were on shaky legal ground to deny the business license. But the majority still voted to send the request on to a denial hearing. The attorney for businessman Alex Rowe says they are determined to continue to fight.
Dozens of Albany State University students and administrators and members of the Union Missionary Baptist Church told city commissioners that they did not want a liquor store at Oglethorpe and Broadway, because it was too close to the school and the church.
Union Missionary Baptist Church Pastor Reverend J.A. Severson said "They are making it too convenient for the kids at Albany State. There are two or three liquor stores within a mile or two miles of the particular area. We just feel that placing another liquor store in this particular area would be detrimental to the community."
The store would be more than 800 feet from the church, meeting all the legal requirements by city code. Commissioner Tommy Postell said he voted against approving the license because community feelings are just as important as measurement rules.
Postell said "That's why I voted not put it there .Because I wanted the community to be satisfied."
But Alex Rowe's attorney said they will continue to fight city commissioners for their rights at the denial hearing.
Attorney Chris Cohilas said "The burden of proof is on them, and as has been noted in the record, there is no evidence to support this particular alcohol license should be denied. There is just simply no evidence whatsoever."
Commissioner Postell says he will continue to vote no because of the community groups opposition, even if it means a lawsuit.
Cohilas said "The commission has the ability to do whatever the commission wants to do. However there are always legal ramifications for every decision the commission makes."
Reverend Severson says he will also return to the denial hearing, to continue to say he thinks the proposed location is too close to his church and the university.
Commissioner Postell said he plans to seek to change the city's requirements for liquor license approval, to make it clear legally that commissioners can deny based on community opposition.
A denial hearing will be scheduled within the next ten to 15 days.
It will also be held before city commissioners just like last night's public hearing, and afterwards city commissioners will again vote on whether to grant the business license.