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4/13/2018 10:19:00 AM
Pendleton Town Council votes against establishing a riverfront district

Christopher Stephens, Herald Bulletin

PENDLETON — To a round of thunderous applause, the Town Council voted not to move forward with a proposed riverfront district.

The council voted unanimously Thursday to accept a Pendleton Business Association recommendation not to move forward with the special development district, which would have opened several deeply-discounted three-way liquor licenses to the downtown area.

PBA President Jack Wilson argued the town lacks a demand for additional liquor licenses and that current license owners would lose a significant asset if cheap licenses were made readily available. Liquor licenses routinely sell for more than $100,000.

“I would hate to see us take an action that would reduce the value these business owners have invested in Pendleton,” Wilson said.

With little discussion after Wilson’s presentation, town council member Chad Wolfe motioned to shoot down the riverfront district.

“We’ve listened to this multiple times at multiple levels... and it’s just not appropriate moving forward at this time,” Wolfe said.

Under the original plan, the new licenses would differ from the traditional licenses distributed by the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission. They would be non-transferable, non-transportable, and a business would have to reapply each year to ensure it met quotas, including more than $150,000 in food sales, said Rachel Christenson, Pendleton’s planning and zoning coordinator.

Under the proposal, the town would have offered two three-way licenses — meaning a business could sell beer, wine and liquor — in an area that is up to 1,500 feet outside a buildable bank of a flowing waterway.

The district included the north part of town along Pendleton Avenue near Falls Park, downtown areas along State Street and stretching south to Laurel Street, and farther south along the train tracks.

Also voicing their disagreement with the plan were two churches included in the area: First United Methodist Church and Pendleton Baptist Church.

Both churches were worried the liquor licenses would attract the “wrong type of businesses” as well as disturb the historic layout of Pendleton.

Also at Thursday’s meeting, the council voted unanimously to pass a resolution urging the Indiana Legislature to discuss gun safety and school funding during the upcoming special session.

The resolution urged state government officials to discuss banning bump stocks and high-capacity magazines as well as strengthening and tightening gun purchase background checks. It also urges state legislators to invest finances in mental health, police training and after-school safety programs for schools.

The resolution originally included language looking to limit the sale of “assault type” weapons, but it was removed after vigorous discussion between council members, law enforcement officials and community members.

Some residents said they were concerned the resolution wasn’t representative of all residents or that it wasn’t the place for a small town like Pendleton to intrude in the national conversation on gun safety.

However, Judge George Gasparovic rebutted: “To me, this is a step — flawed maybe, but it’s a step — and it ain’t going to happen unless it starts with us.

“We had better do something.”

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