The Clermont Town Council talked Tuesday night about holding a straw poll or nonbinding resolution on whether to allow beer and wine sales on U.S. 129/Cleveland Highway, a major road running through town.
The council didn’t commit to anything, but members talked during a work session about the issue in terms of a possible addition to the Nov. 3 general election ballot. Ward 1, 2 and 5 council seats — each carrying a four-year term — are up for election.
“I know it’s going to be controversial,” said Councilman John Brady, who brought up the subject. “... (The issue) is not going away. Every year or every two years, we’re going to face this, especially on U.S. 129, with more business coming in.”
“I’ve had two or three people asking me about putting it on the ballot,” Mayor James Nix said.
“I’ve heard that too, and I just want to bring it up,” Brady said. “This would be a fine time to do it if we’re open to it.”
Clermont is a dry town, something the council reaffirmed last summer with a vote to let stand an ordinance banning beer and wine sales in the town.
Alcohol sales have been a topic lately in light of a deannexation request from a U.S. 129 businessman and talk of other businesses perhaps looking to withdraw from the North Hall town into unincorporated Hall County.
The council talked briefly about businessman Chris Nonnemaker’s request to deannex from the city. He owns a 6-acre tract featuring a Papa’s Pizza To-Go restaurant off U.S. 129.
At a council meeting in March, Nonnemaker said he had a potential offer on the property “contingent upon it being in (Hall County), so (the new owners) could have more flexibility to do what they want.”
He didn’t speak to the potential sale of alcohol on the property, but he did say the pizzeria has been in business for 11 years and his franchise agreement doesn’t allow him to sell alcohol.
“We’re a family place,” Nonnemaker said. “We want to keep it that way. ... We’re part of the community, we enjoy the community, but sometimes the rules get in the way.”
He got approval from the council in March for the deannexation but withdrew his application before the final vote on April 7 when a councilwoman who sided with him in the first vote — Kristi Crumpton — was absent.
Nonnemaker has since reapplied for deannexation, with an April 30 public hearing set before the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission.
The back-and-forth deannexation issue and resulting chatter about property rights and alcohol sales have created something of an identity crisis for the town.
One resident, Sandra Cantrell, has told council members she believes they need to consider a “vision for this community.”
Crumpton jumped on that issue Tuesday night, suggesting the same thing.
“Do we want to have businesses? And If we want them to stay, what are we going to do to make them want to stay?” she asked.