Wood County Commission Approves Video Lottery Waiver | News, Sports, Jobs
PARKERSBURG – In granting another exemption for a video lottery establishment, the Wood County Commission agreed to review the ordinance to see if it should be changed or eliminated.
In a 2-1 vote on Thursday, the commission granted a waiver to owners of the West Virginia Cafe seeking to open two video lottery establishments at a site near the I-77 turnoff near Williamstown (described as map 151, Parcels 2 and 8).
Commissioners Bob Tebay and Jimmy Colombo voted for while Commissioner Blair Couch voted against.
During the hearing, people questioned the validity of the order as the commission continued to grant waivers with only one in recent memory which was granted and later overturned when new evidence emerged. been presented.
Lawyer Bill Merriman, representing A1 Amusements, objected to granting the waiver of the order. He said the ordinance, passed in 2004, specifies where such locations can be established, including 1,000 feet from homes, churches, school premises, playgrounds and more.
“The county has a substantial interest in protecting the public health, safety and well-being of your citizens,” Merriman said. “These establishments, by their very nature, have unpleasant operational characteristics, especially when located in close proximity to each other, thus contributing to the burning and degradation of the quality of life of adjacent areas.
“The county has found that regulation of the location of these establishments is necessary to prevent unwanted side effects on surrounding areas, including… a tendency to attract an unwanted number of transients, to deflate the value of real estate and to spoil commercial and residential areas and hamper the development of businesses and residences. “
The county ordinance was made to align with similar ordinances in other cities. Merriman mentioned the city of Williamstown recently turned down a request to install video lottery machines at DaVinci.
Merriman said West Virginia Cafe’s requests did not meet the guidelines of the order.
Wood County compliance officer Sarah Robinson said her office had been contacted by two owners of residential property within the 1,000-foot limit who objected to the variance.
Couch asked if the county should remove the ordinance and allow state rules that are less restrictive to take effect, changing the distance where places can be established to 300 feet from structures prohibited by the guidelines. The state has given counties the option of adopting stricter rules.
Couch said the county ordinance had been in place for 17 years and they had not seen a drop in property values around gambling establishments.
A1 operates approximately five video lottery establishments in the Williamstown area.
Merriman said A1 never requested a waiver because they established their businesses in accordance with the guidelines set out in the order.
“We ask you to obey your law,” Merriman said.
Chris Ullman, who does real estate work for A1, said he always tried to follow the rules set out in the ordinance. He passed on certain properties because he didn’t think they would pass the ordinance requirements.
“I haven’t even watched it, because I’m trying to play by your rules,” he said. “I respected the rules and I did not challenge them once. Maybe I should have.
He said there were properties he would have sought out if he knew he could go to the commission and get a waiver approved.
A1 has around 30 locations “From here to Huntington,” Ullman said.
West Virginia Cafe bought a property, made improvements and is now requesting a waiver.
“I didn’t try to slip anything in,” Ullman said of the properties he obtained for A1. “That’s what’s not fair. Their real estate does not meet the criteria (of the ordinance). “
Attorney Ginny Conley, representing the West Virginia Cafe and owner Jeremy Webb, praised A1 for the businesses they run. She and other officials believe she was a county attorney when the original ordinance was passed.
“(Webb) runs good businesses,” She added that Webb has rules within her businesses that only two beers can be served within five hours and no alcoholic beverages are served.
Colombo questioned whether the ordinance blocked free enterprise. Conley said there are people who block free enterprise with such rules and regulations.
“It will be a beautiful establishment, well managed and not flashy”, Said Conley.
Video lottery money has been used for education, helped veterans, the elderly and others, she said.
Couch said that the money lost by people from these establishments does not go to other businesses in the community. Conley said people who frequent these places choose to spend their money there.
Tebay, who was on the commission when the ordinance was passed, said there could be flaws in the ammunition, but the intention was to protect the citizens of the county. However, it is a state licensed business that has the right to operate. He would be in favor of a review of the order.
“If it’s irrelevant, we need to fix it,” he said.
Couch voted against variance, as is its tradition. He does not want to see the video lottery develop in the county. He said it doesn’t seem like the ordinance is doing much, which has led to questions as to whether it should be adjusted or removed.
“The problems with putting the ordinance in place in 2004 may be different now,” he said. “At the time, it was feared that these companies would attract an unsavory clientele. Over time, we realize that this is not really the case. They drive in and out and don’t spend a lot of time in the community. “
The commission plans to review the order on Monday to see if anything needs to be done.
Contact Brett Dunlap at [email protected]