Church wins battle over alcohol sales at Walmart
by Jon Gillooly
October 10, 2012 02:26 AM | 6564 views | 43 43 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Pine Grove Baptist Church interim pastor the Rev. Bobby Wood, left, and members the church stand outside the sanctuary<br>(MDJ Staff/Laura Moon)
Pine Grove Baptist Church interim pastor the Rev. Bobby Wood, left, and members the church stand outside the sanctuary
(MDJ Staff/Laura Moon)
slideshow
Wood, left — talking with George McWilliams after Tuesday’s vote by the Cobb commissioners — says he doesn’t expect Walmart to give up the fight to sell alcoholic beverages. ‘They waited six years until this time so we don’t know exactly what they’re going to do, but we’re ready,’ he said.<br>Staff/Laura Moon
Wood, left — talking with George McWilliams after Tuesday’s vote by the Cobb commissioners — says he doesn’t expect Walmart to give up the fight to sell alcoholic beverages. ‘They waited six years until this time so we don’t know exactly what they’re going to do, but we’re ready,’ he said.
Staff/Laura Moon
slideshow
MARIETTA — County Commissioners on Tuesday denied a request from a Walmart Supercenter in Powder Springs to have a wine and beer package license.

The vote was 4-1, with county chairman Tim Lee alone in support of the sales.

County ordinances ban the sale of alcohol within 600 feet of a church. Pine Grove Baptist Church’s property line is located 237 feet from the Walmart on Barrett Parkway near the East-West Connector.

Walmart, which has been located at the site for six years, had sought a waiver from the ordinance, but the county’s licensing department denied the request in August. Walmart then appealed to the license review board, which sided with the world’s largest retailer last month. But final approval rests with the commissioners.

Northeast Cobb Commissioner JoAnn Birrell said approving the waiver would set a precedent.

“The laws are made for a reason,” Birrell said.

Northwest Commissioner Helen Goreham referenced the code governing the ban, noting it was “to protect and preserve schools and churches.”

“Apparently when this ordinance did go into effect with the stipulated 600 feet that was the purpose, and I do not believe that the purpose has changed through the course of the years in the course of development,” she said.

Walmart attorney Jarrod Loadholt said the code allowed commissioners to grant a waiver if it didn’t impact surrounding property values. Loadholt referenced a nearby RaceTrac that hasn’t diminished property values despite selling alcohol.

“Every party has seen their property value either increase, or in the church’s case remain the same throughout the time that RaceTrac was selling beer and wine as we are asking to do,” Loadholt said.

Lee said that was why he voted for Walmart.

“I didn’t feel the church’s purpose or value would be impacted negatively by Walmart having the permit to sell within the confines of their store,” Lee said. “It’s one percent of their sales. It’s not just a package store per se that’s within 300 feet. This is a retail, a super retail establishment of which alcohol is a part of a multitude of other stuff. Given the type of store they are … the church’s purpose and value — the two items that are clearly indicated in our ordinance — would not be diminished as a result of their ability to sell.”

Church member Betty Wallace has a different view.

“We see first-hand police frequently dealing with a law breaker on Walmart property,” Wallace said. “Our area is a dreaded stepchild of Cobb County which is known as South Cobb, and it is frequently referred to as a blighted, gang-infested portion of the county.

“It is our position that the sale of beer or wine there would absolutely make it more blighted as it is,” she said.

Church deacon Kenneth Carroll said he had acquired a list of 1,421 arrests that had occurred at the Walmart, including for disorderly conduct, robbery, vandalism, sexual assaults and illegal drug use.

“Serious crimes, not just shoplifting and thefts, concern us, plus the potential to use our buffer areas, which are hidden behind y’alls loading docks and our church property where the fences are cut and the foot traffic comes through our parking lot,” Carroll said. “We are in great suspicion that they will be coming out of the package store and setting up camp up there in the wooded area. We’ve already found lean-tos and all where vagrants or someone has been camping out back there, so it leaves us with a suspicion and a fear of what could go on once you add alcohol to the mix.”

Walmart spokesman Glen Wilkins said later that he was disappointed.

“This is an issue that we’ve been hearing from our customers for six years, as long as we’ve been in operation,” Wilkins said. “We believe that we can best serve our customers by providing a beer and wine option,” Wilkins said.

While Wilkins wouldn’t say what Walmart’s next step would be, the Rev. Bobby Wood, a member of Pine Grove Baptist Church who is its interim pastor, expects the fight isn’t over.

“They waited six years until this time so we don’t know exactly what they’re going to do, but we’re ready,” Wood said.

Lee said commissioners would likely review the code in January.

If it’s changed, Wood hopes commissioners make it stricter.

“I’d like to see it extended from 600 feet to 1,000 feet or something,” Wood said. “The main thing that we’re concerned about of course is the safety of our church folks that come to church, and the fact that we feel like it does have a lot of effect on the community. We’re just happy that the board saw it our way.”

Do you agree with the Cobb Commission's decision to deny the Powder Springs Walmart's alcohol license?


Comments
(43)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
Abcxyz123
|
October 11, 2012
Walmart was well aware of the law at the time they built at this location. If alcohol sales were so important to them then why not choose a different location in the beginning? My guess is they were counting on the politicians granting them an exception after a few years.

Why persecute the church for wanting the law enforced? Oh I forgot, Jesus told us the church would be persecuted for His sake. But He also said we are blessed when that happens. Thank you Lord for your blessings on this church.

My opinion is this - if you are going to have a law then enforce the law. If you are going to grant exceptions to the law, then change the law itself. What good is a law if you aren't going to enforce it?
It is law
|
October 11, 2012
It is the law...right or wrong. The commissioners upheld the law. Maybe someone should look at repealing the law? Until then, it stands.
Former Attender
|
October 11, 2012
Tim Lee is a pro at sticking it to a church. He stuck it to the people of Grace Church at Town Center and Hidden Forest Court. He had help with "Sneaky Snell" and church leader who made windfall profits from their wheeling and dealing. BTW Walmart, you built that building knowing good and well that church was there, shame on you. PS: and you people badmouthing that church should turn it toward the law, not those who are protected by it. If you don't like the law, have it repealed.
CobbConservative
|
October 10, 2012
No one cares about the health hazards and privacy issues around the new COBB EMC SMART METERS, but selling alcohol on Sunday, what a crime (sarcastic)! Seriously?

Have a fancy new digital electric meter on your house? Get some information on this and search for "smart meter" on YouTube or Google.

EMC Member
|
October 12, 2012
I too am upset about the SMART METERS! I want mine gone!
Lib in Cobb
|
October 10, 2012
Would it help if Walmart sold snakes to the church at a healthy house of worship discount?

Does the county have a code preventing heathen/pagan/atheists living within 600 feet of a church? I really don't want to move.
JenLFG
|
October 10, 2012
That is just crazy! Nobody is gonna drink their beer/wine in Walmart or their parking lot anyway! If you do your grocery shopping at that Walmart & you are a beer drinker, it's inconvenient to have to make an extra stop... & nobody is forcing beer on those who do not want it. This is a stupid law! Plain & simple! Nobody is going to stop drinking because of this! it makes religions like this look really mean & pushes people away from worshiping God instead of drawing them closer to God! There is a liquor store right beside a large church in Hiram & it doesn't cause a problem for either party, both have been there AA long as I can remember.
GaBoriqua
|
October 10, 2012
The Law has been in Place for years and prior to the Walmart Opening. I've always asked, why they do not sell Alcohol and the reason is, the Small Church up the street between the karate school and us (walmart).

Well you know what, shame of the Purchaser of the property for not doing their Job and researching the laws of this State, not county, State. And shame on Walmart for trying to be a Bully. Fire the Purchaser and relocate. Move next to Racetrac off of Macland.

Just My 3 Cents worth. And no, I'm not a Baptist, I'm a Christian who believes in the Law. Way to go Pine Grove for defending & protecting your rights.
Be Kind
|
October 10, 2012
The Bible requires moderation in the use of alcohol, not abstinence. Yet the fact that alcohol is addictive to many, coupled with the biblical warnings against its dangers, also suggests the need for caution. The abuse of alcohol constitutes by far our society's greatest substance abuse problem, not to mention the fact that many Christians avoid it as a matter of conscience. Thus the question of alcohol consumption represents a prime opportunity for Christians to exercise their freedom responsibly, carefully, and in Christ-like love.
iguessimfrance
|
October 10, 2012
Heated argument here. I see good points on both sides. I guess that leaves me in the middle and therefore, heck will all y'all!

I also guess I should change my name to Mr. Frenchie.
Need fewer
|
October 10, 2012
southern baptists in the county.

They seem to publicly be:

busy bodies

mean-spirited

backward thinking

David Banks, John Crooks, and this Pine Grove gang afeared of alcohol being sold to the public.
Need More
|
October 10, 2012
@Need fewer

Errr, Mr Need fewer, hate to tell you, but Pine Grove Baptist is NOT a member of the Southern Baptist Convention and never has been. In your rush to stereotype and prejudge, you could not be more mistaken.
I stand corrected
|
October 10, 2012
Need fewer baptists
You Stand Incorrect
|
October 11, 2012
@I stand corrected

That's the problem with prejudice and stereotypes. Your continued use of a stereotype, in this case Baptist, exposes your ignorance. Pine Grove may indeed be Baptist, but you still don't get it, and probably never will, given your attitude. Pine Grove is far more than Baptist. Here's a hint, they are NOT religious. Be contrite and try again.
TheHumorist
|
October 10, 2012
If Walmart really wants controversy, they should put up some really tall antennas...and maybe add some backyard chicken coops.
SG68
|
October 10, 2012
Finally Tim Lee makes a good common sense decision ( the first one I can recall) and look what happens!!!

While it is true that the church property adjoins the WalMart property and therefore is well within the 600 foot radius dictated by the ordinance, that is not speaking to the real situation in this instance.

Measured from the front door of the church to front door of the Wal-Mart the distance by the nearest means of public access is over 2000 feet or almost a half mile.

Or measured from the closest access to the church off of Powder Springs Road to the main parking lot entrance to Wal Mart the distance is still over 1000 feet.

This is clearly a case where applying the letter of the law (in this case a strict reading of the ordinance) is over ruling common sense.

If the commissioners cannot use good judgement and discretion to make logical determinations like this then the ordinance needs to be changed to address such situations.
Cobb Taxpayer
|
October 10, 2012
So much for free markets.
SBC Member
|
October 10, 2012
As a Southern Baptist member, this vote was wrong. Do the members of Pine Grove think that people would buy their beer & start drinking before they leave the Wal Mart parking lot? All the "crime" & lean tos are already in the area behind the store & that has nothing to do with buying beer. The list of crimes your member had were ALL committed at Wal Mart with no sell of alcohol. The only way to avoid much crime is to move to an isolated area in the mountains, rural country or the desert.

Also, Jesus walked among & ministered to the people, ALL people, not just the ones who were believers. I attend an intown church with restaurants that sell alcohol all around us. We deal with the homeless all the time. Step out on faith & live in today's world. You cannot be isolated in this county.
Funny SBC
|
October 10, 2012
@SBC Member

News flash for SBC Member. Pine Grove Baptist is not a member of the SBC and never has been.
AuditAlcoholSales
|
October 10, 2012
I suggest the County audit all county-wide establishments that sell beer and wine. I would bet dozens of grocery/convenience stores are within the 600-feet limit. So why don't they stop sales at these establishments?? Perhaps it is because commercial sales mean more local tax revenue.
dustoff
|
October 10, 2012
While I have no problem with a church wanting top have a say in their neighborhood I do have a problem with their tax property tax exemption.

I can agree that the church itself be exempted from property tax, but my problem lies in that the schools, day care centers and the other business's they run are also exempt.

If they can use these other busineses to make money then they should be paying the property tax on the land on which they occupy.

I do not believe that the law makers for saw this when the exemption was granted.
WWJD???
|
October 10, 2012
“Serious crimes, not just shoplifting and thefts, concern us, plus the potential to use our buffer areas, which are hidden behind y’alls loading docks and our church property where the fences are cut and the foot traffic comes through our parking lot,” Carroll said. "We are in great suspicion that they will be coming out of the package store and setting up camp up there in the wooded area. We’ve already found lean-tos and all where vagrants or someone has been camping out back there, so it leaves us with a suspicion and a fear of what could go on once you add alcohol to the mix.”

Strange... I don't recall Jesus ever saying "Help the less fortunate... Unless they are vagrants or alcoholics. THOSE people can fend for themselves and you should do everything you can to protect your wooded areas and fences and parking lots and 'buffer' areas from these people." Thank you to Pine Grove Baptist Church for showing the world the meaning of the song, "They Will Know We are Christians by our Love."
you're ridiculous
|
October 10, 2012
the church says nothing about not helping the less fortunate. people that hang around the wooded area vandalize the church. you don't know all the facts. If any of them (regardless if they were drinking or on drugs) asked a single member from that church for help they would help them. this has nothing to do with helping the less fortunate. they just don't want the church being vandalized and used as a 'hang out' for people to drink. you're an idiot.
Murph3I
|
October 10, 2012
...and Cobb County wonders why all the young talent is leaving and all the high school dropouts decide to stay. This county is stuck in the 1800's, run by old rednecks and the church when our constitution clearly states seperation of church and state. I'm just amazed that a open member of the KKK (Wildman) can sell his hate and racism right by a church in this county but you can't buy a beer at Walmart. Way to go Rev. Wood, you've really made Cobb a better place...now the drunks will have to drive another 1/2 mile on your streets to get their second 12 pack of the day.
JenLFG
|
October 10, 2012
Well said!
Be Careful
|
October 10, 2012
Will someone PLEASE explain to me how a church or school is "protected" by the 600 foot limit. 600 feet is the length of 2 football fields. That distance can be walked in a matter of a couple minutes. I don't get it.

And...if you are religious and don't believe in drinking, then don't drink.

But those who want to drink should have the freedom to do so.
Watcher...
|
October 10, 2012
:...acquired a list of 1,421 arrests that had occurred at the Walmart, including for disorderly conduct, robbery, vandalism, sexual assaults and illegal drug use."



1,421 arrests is amazing. That means the Cobb Police have arrested nearly five people, per week, since the WalMart opened.

How many other crimes have been committed on that property where no arrest was made?
*We welcome your comments on the stories and issues of the day and seek to provide a forum for the community to voice opinions. All comments are subject to moderator approval before being made visible on the website but are not edited. The use of profanity, obscene and vulgar language, hate speech, and racial slurs is strictly prohibited. Advertisements, promotions, and spam will also be rejected. Please read our terms of service for full guides