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Flowery Branch could OK Sunday alcohol vote
Council discusses ballot wording
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Flowery Branch appears headed for a Nov. 8 vote on Sunday alcohol sales.

City Council members kicked the idea around Thursday night with City Attorney Ron Bennett, including discussion on different ways to word the referendum and whether to hold a town-hall meeting on the issue.

Regardless, "I think the council wants to put it on the ballot," said Councilman Kris Yardley, serving as acting mayor in the absence of Mayor Mike Miller. "It's just a matter of how to put it on the ballot."

The South Hall city's movement on the issue comes a couple of weeks after Gov. Nathan Deal signed a bill giving governments the option of putting the issue before voters.

The legislation passed this year after five years of stalling amid pressure from religious groups and a veto threat from former Gov. Sonny Perdue.

Many restaurants and bars in Georgia already sell alcohol on Sunday. The new law would let voters approve the sales by grocery and convenience stores.

The City Council would have to pass an ordinance calling for the vote, and the latest it can do that, on the second and final reading, is Aug. 4. That's following the council's regular meeting schedule - the council can hold a special called meeting at any time.

Bennett told the council it has several things to consider in the referendum.

Alcohol sales would be restricted to any block of hours between 12:30 p.m. and midnight.

Also, the referendum could focus on beer and wine sales or beer, wine and liquor sales, Bennett said.

Finally, the ballot needs to set an effective date for Sunday sales.

"It could be Jan. 1, 2012, if you wanted a clean date," Bennett said.

Councilwoman Tara Richards sought Police Chief Gerald Lanich's input on the matter.

"Anytime you increase this type of activity, it does place an increased burden on us for service calls, but that's what we're here for," he said.

Council members ended up deciding to email some thoughts on the matter to city officials and to discuss the matter at a future public meeting.

In other business, the council voted to put off a decision on an ordinance to change its zoning code, shortening the duration of messages on electronic multiple message signs.

The amount of time a message must stay fixed on a sign fronting Interstate 985 would drop to 10 seconds from 49 seconds.

Since the last vote on the matter, city officials tweaked the ordinance, at council's request, to prohibit the city from approving a multiple message sign within 5,000 feet of an established sign. Council members balked at that language Thursday night.

Also, the council decided to put off a vote on whether to spend most of the remaining money in a previous 1 percent special purpose local option sales tax program on seven new police cars.

The decision was based on getting updated SPLOST information.

The city is looking at spending $140,245 on the cars and the rest of the SPLOST money, or $7,176, on street paving.

Hall County and its cities are now raising money for capital projects through the six-year SPLOST VI, which was approved by voters in March 2009. The previous program, with a five-year lifespan, was approved by voters in March 2004.

Flowery Branch raised $590,049 in SPLOST V and now has a $147,421 balance.

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