What we think:It’s time for Shelby County to dive into being ‘wet’

-A A +A

We think the idea of being 'moist' is passe and creates problems that don't need to be created.

We understand the recent reluctance by members of Shelby County Fiscal Court to provide the property for the city of Shelbyville once again to expand its tax base.

At issue this time was the land along Mount Eden Road at Interstate 64, where Speedway is building its second store in the county, and magistrates approved the annexation request only after delaying it for two weeks and then casting three aye votes to two nays. Magistrate Mike Whitehouse and Judge-Executive Rob Rothenburger did not attend the meeting when the vote was taken, and Magistrate Tony Carriss, who presided in Mr. Rothenburger’s absence, did not vote.

But it was Mr. Carriss who had called for the postponement on the action so that county officials could meet with their counterparts from the city and receive some salve for what has become a bit of a chafed spot in the relationship between the two governments. Magistrates are beginning to be rubbed the wrong way by this third request in the past three years for them to allow annexation of property for commercial development. That is becoming an old story to them, and it’s a familiar plot to us:

A business comes to the city and says it wants to be annexed so that it can sell alcohol within the city’s more flexible ordinance. The city asks the county for the land to appease the client, and the process goes from there because neither wants to turn down development or the tax revenue that would come with it.

Yes, we understand the county’s frustration with that, but what we don’t understand is why the county is clinging to legal restrictions that create this dichotomy in the first place.

Don’t you think it’s time for magistrates to rescind the county’s antiquated “moist” status for package alcohol sales – meaning those items can’t be sold in the county but drinks-by-the-glass can – and compete in a fair and balanced marketplace?

This has become almost as outrageously inconsistent to us as the United States District Court found the Kentucky Alcoholic Beverage Control’s laws governing sales in grocery stores and pharmacies. Why a pharmacy could display and sell alcohol by the front door and supermarkets were required to have not only a separate door but also a separate facility was beyond us.

And so is Shelby County’s duplicitous arrangement of allowing sales of alcohol in some stores but not others based on which side of an imaginary line they happen to be located. The county should not be OK with allowing Shelbyville to have all its advantages.

Already the city has annexed property along boundary lines that are sometimes mystifying in their complexity but so obviously opportunistic in their selection. Those meandering lines are why Speedway had to ask for annexation to be able to compete on equal ground with similar fuel outlets both across and down Mount Eden Road, even farther from the core of the city but already within its limits.

That’s confounding, but it’s also an argument for anther day. The focus now should be on the county’s repealing of this outdated ordinance.

Yes, we realize that such a largely symbolic change would have its detractors, and we understand the foundation for those concerns. But in this century, we don’t believe there is any irrefutable reason to stand on higher moral ground about something that is so obviously incongruous.

There are numerous outlets to buy alcohol in Shelbyville, and when Speedway opens and CVS completes the store it is planning for Midland Trail and Freedom’s Way, there will be two more. If anyone ever truly buys the old bowling alley property, there would be three. Why should the city limits matter?

To have two different sets of rules in the same county not only causes unnecessary conflicts but also creates a heavy pair of handcuffs for revenue growth in the county’s budget.

Look at what’s about to happen near Simpsonville. If even one – if not both – of those proposed outlet malls were to be built, that area of Shelby County would be transformed into a commercial test tube. Restaurants and perhaps hotels, fuel stations and other businesses would build in the out lots of those malls, and that growth culture would spread along Buck Creek Road.

Yet some of those business would be limited to what they could sell under the existing ordinance, even though those businesses initially would be almost exclusively in the city of Simpsonville, where some already are losing revenue to shoppers who cross the Jefferson County line or drive to Shelbyville.

Yes, we understand magistrates’ concern about another annexation request from the city of Shelbyville.

But perhaps instead of pausing next time to meet with the city council they should pause and draft an ordinance that they can use to the benefit of the county, its growth opportunities and its residents by cleaning up this conundrum.

If they don’t, they’re just being wet behind the ears.