Whispering Pines Council Rejects Electronic Gaming
BY JOHN LENTZ
The Whispering Pines Village Council has turned down a request that would have allowed a business to open an electronic gaming operation in the village.
At Wednesday's regular monthly meeting, Mayor Bob Zschoche reconvened a special hearing regarding a proposed business that would allow electronic gaming in a building adjacent to the Blue Top Grocery at the intersection of N.C. 22 and Ray's Bridge Road.
The meeting was continued from July 11, when an SAS representative, who identified himself only as "Shawn," testified why he wanted to open the new establishment.
"We want to bring a new business to the area, one that will bring new employment," he said. "I want to bring help both to my business and to area residents, since this building has stood empty for a long time."
But opponents of the business spoke against approval at each meeting.
"I am opposed to this for three reasons," said the Rev. Robert Brown, pastor of St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church. "First, for moral reasons. There is a sickness attached to gambling and a love of money, which is the root of all evils. We don't need an enabling of that sickness.
"Gambling can have a disastrous effect on the gambler, his family, and the community. As a priest, I would be remiss if I did not speak against this on moral grounds."
Brown said the second objection involved safety.
"If moral grounds are not enough to guide the decision of the council, there is also a safety issue with this business located at a dangerous corner, especially aggravated at night," he said. "Third, there is the issue of limited patron parking. I suggest that the council reject this business in what was once a thrift shop for the benefit of many to a gambling establishment to the benefit of none."
Before the vote, Zschoche said the business needed to meet nine standards for review, one of which included the statement that the gaming establishment "will not be injurious to the use and enjoyment of the other properties in the immediate vicinity ... nor impair property values in the neighborhood."
After council members agreed that expert testimony had not been made in regard to this standard, Mayor Pro-Tem Randy Saunders proposed rejecting the permit request based on "no substantial answer" to that requirement. Councilman Jerry Osborne concurred, and the motion passed 5-0.
After the decision, Shawn, the SAS representative and business owner, said he was disappointed by the vote.
"There are four other sweepstakes businesses in this area, and members of this community go to them," he said. "This is not about gambling, this is about improving the area and making property values go up. It's just common sense that improving the area by opening a new business would increase property values. I have no idea why it was voted down."
Zschoche said he had received "all kinds of letters" from Whispering Pines residents urging the council to vote against granting the permit.
"They all said 'don't do this,'" he said. "I didn't receive a single letter in support of it. Two persons supported it in the first meeting, but at least one of them was an employee of the grocery. That's all there was."
The next regular council meeting will be at 6 p.m. Sept. 12.
Contact John Lentz at (910) 693-2479 or email@example.com.
More like this story