Hancock supervisors set liquor store hearing

Published 5:28 pm Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Hancock County Board of Supervisors has set Wednesday, Jan. 20, at 1 p.m. for a public hearing concerning the proposed establishment of a liquor store in North Hancock County’s Bienville Community, said Dawn Lee, who heads a group opposed to the store.

She said a representative from the county called her on Monday and told her when and where the hearing would be held.

The hearing will be held in Trailer No. 5 at the county office complex, 3068 Longfellow Dr.

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The liquor store, if approved, would be located at 24946 Miss. Hwy. 43 South, just inside the Hancock County line, only about two-tenths of a mile from the Pearl River County-Hancock County boundry.

The store — which would be located in the old Caston Quick Stop diagonally across from Seal’s Supermarket at the intersection of North Bienville Road and Hwy. 43 South — is being proposed by two Bay St. Louis lwomen, Lorray R. Maurigi and Anne L. Werner, who obtained a special exemption for the property at the Nov. 5 Hancock County Planning and Zoning Commission.

The old quick stop is now out of business and empty.

The commission gave the two women the exemption, which will allow the proposed liquor store to be placed in a location that is now zoned Agriculture 1, and the exception was granted over the objection of a group of residents lead by Dawn Lee and Bobby Seals, who live near the proposed store.

Both proponents and opponents of the store spoke at the Nov. 5 commission meeting. Both presented petitions to the commission, opponents petitions with 336 signatures and proponents with 100. Proponents told the commission that they could have gotten more than the 100, but that is all that was needed for a successful approval.

Lee told the commission that the store would increase traffic flow at the already dangerous intersection, that there is an elementary school only 1.9 miles from the location and that within a 10-mile radius there are 14 churches, baseball fields and children’s play grounds.

Proponents of the store argued that it would not cause traffic congestion at the intersection, vouched for the good personal characters of the two women, Maurigi and Werner, and pointed to tax and retail revenue generated for the local economy.

The commission voted unanimously in favor of giving the exemption.

Earlier, in October, the board of supervisors voted 4-1, endorsing the proposed store. That endorsement by supervisors was included in an application being submitted to the State Tax Commission for a liquor license through the Alcohol and Beverage Control Agency in Jackson.

The ABC is conducting an investigation to determine whether or not to issue Maurigi and Werner a permit to operate a store there. In order for the store to get the state permit, the land on which the store is located would have to be designated a “resort area,” said Mark Hicks, chief law enforcement officer for the ABC.

There are only two other liquor stores located in Hancock County non-incorporated areas, one at Diamondhead and the other at Kiln Community.

Lee’s group also charges that another reason for locating the store in Bienville is to attract customers from dry Pearl River County to the store, thus raking off tax and retail revenue from a dry county.

Hancock is wet and Pearl River County is dry. Only beer and light wine can be sold inside the city limits of Picayune.

The commission’s Nov. 5 approval of the special use exception is now before the supervisors for approval, and the Jan. 20 hearing will be held to accept objections to and support for the commission’s decision, which now must be approved by supervisors to go forward.

The last time the proposed store was before supervisors it was endorsed 4-1. District 2 Supervisor and board president Rocky Pullman was the only supervisor voting against the proposal. He said he voted against it because he is against the sale of any form of alcoholic beverages. “That’s just me,” he said. “If I had my way, I would ban all of it.”

The proposed store is in Pullman’s District 2.