Hancock supervisors mull public hearing on proposed liquor store

Published 2:51 pm Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hancock supervisors on Wednesday told a group opposing the establishment of a packaged liquor store in the North Hancock County’s Bienville Community that they will set a public hearing on the issue, said Dawn Lee, one of the leaders of the group who attended the supervisors’ session.

Lee said supervisors told her and about 10 others representing her opposition group that they would take the matter under advisement, decide when to hold a hearing and then get back with her on a proposed date.

Supervisors also told her the proposed hearing date would have to be advertised by a public notice placed in a newspaper, she said.

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Hancock District 2 supervisor and board president Rocky Pullman of Pearlington, in whose district the store would be located, said Wednesday afternoon that the appeal by the opponents was spread on the minutes.

He said that as soon as the board receives information from the planning and zoning commission, a date for a hearing will be set, and the parties involved in the dispute will be notified so they can present their arguments for or against the proposed store before supervisors.

The Hancock County planning and zoning commission on Nov. 5 approved a request from two people proposing the store, requesting a special exemption on a piece of property at 24946 Mississippi Highway 43 South, at the intersection of Miss. Hwy. 43 South and North Bienville Road.

The proposed store is the site of the former Caston Quick Stop, which recently went out of business. The closed quick stop is diagonally across from Seal’s Supermarket and is in the southeast corner of the intersection.

The Nov. 5 planning and zoning decision approved a special exemption that would allow the establishment of a package liquor store in an Agricultural One zone.

The two people proposing the store are Lorray R. Maurigi of Bay St. Louis and Anne L. Werner. The Item has unsuccessfully made attempts to contact both Maurigi and Werner. They also have to get the approval and a state liquor license from the State Tax Commission before opening the store.

A spokesman for the Alcohol Beverage Control agency said an investigation of the request is now underway and the ABC’s findings will be presented to the commission. Mark Hicks, chief enforcement officers for the ABC, said all parties will have a chance to present their views to the commission.

The commission issues liquor permits.

Opponents of the store have charged that 14 churches are within a 10-mile radius of the proposed store, an elementary school is 1.9 miles south of the store and that the reason for the location of the store, only two-tenths of a mile from the Pearl River County line, is to rake off tax revenue and income from residents of a dry county. Pearl River County is dry; Hancock is wet.

The store is right on the boarder between Leetown and Bienville, but Pullman said opposition to the store is spread out into the Flattop and even Catahoula communities, which are also nearby.

Opposition is also coming from Pearl River County residents who live nearby and who are circulating their own petition opposing the store. Hancock residents are gathering signatures on petitions also.

Pullman said he voted against allowing the request to go forward in October when the proposal got a 4-1 vote allowing the permit process for the store to go forward. He said it was the third time he had voted against similar propositions in his district. “If I had my way, I would even prevent the sale of beer. That’s just me,” he said.