Updated at 7:45 am
Walton County Commissioners are expecting a large crowd at Tuesday night’s commission meeting. The reason for the expected turnout is that an alcohol measure is on the ballot this month. Commissioners are voting on whether to call for a referendum in November asking voters whether or not to allow for Sunday sales of alcohol in grocery and convenience stores.
“I think we could have maybe 300 people there,” said Walton County Commission Chairman Kevin Little. “There is always a big turnout when we’re talking about an issue like alcohol.”
Walton County is surrounding by other jurisdictions that allow for the sale of alcohol on a Sunday, both by the drink and by the package, but the county doesn’t allow for either.
“We were approached by several convenience store owners in the county. We have 23 stores in the unincorporated area that are affected,” Little said. “All the cities have passed it and so this leaves the stores in the county with a economically disadvantage. It would be ultimately left up to the voters.”
District 2 Commissioner Chuck Bagley said that since the General Assembly passed the responsibility to local governments, and local governments were elected to represent the citizens, they should allow the citizens to vote on Sunday Sales, Liquor By The Drink and any other program involving alcohol that does not require a petition by state laws.
"In the past 18 months most surrounding cities and counties have allowed Sunday sales and/or added LBTD; this puts the businesses located in Walton County at a disadvantage we competing for business. Their customers should decide not elected officials," Bagley said. "This is strictly a right to vote issue, I believe if we can send our men, women, boys and girls to foreign soil to defend the right to vote we should not deprive our citizens of the right to vote because of our personal preferences. I am also opposed to those that do not pay taxes attempting to intimidate or convince elected officials not to allow the citizens the right to vote."
Bagle said when it came to his vote personally, the issue is an economic development one.
"With more Recipient Districts than Donor Districts citizens are interested in limiting tax increases and looking for methods to have others pay for the goods and services provided. In my research I have found there is no more alcohol consumed when the availability increases just as there is no more food consumed when a new grocery store opens," Bagley said. "Usually a person just purchases closer to home or work. Quality Foods in Monroe chooses not to sell alcohol and Chick-fil-A chooses not to open on Sunday and they appear to being just fine. Let the voters decide what and when consumer products can be sold by using the ballot box."
Little said with there is no countywide election in 2013, if it is not addressed this year it would be 2014 before it could be readdressed. The cities of Monroe, Loganville, Walnut Grove and Social Circle have already had voters approve package sale of alcohol on a Sunday, but Loganville will have another alcohol issue on the ballot in November. The city is asking voters to vote on whether or not to allow for a package store in the city.