Whose neighborhood?

07/07/2006 5:05 PM by

In the ongoing Booze Battle on Venable, Ann keeps the fight alive.

The following is the exact text of a letter sent to Gov.Kaine:

July 6, 2006

Governor Tim Kaine
P.O. Box 1475
Richmond, VA 23218

Dear Sir:

On May 5, 2006, I wrote to you concerning what I consider to be a hazard to my neighborhood and to the quality of life in my neighborhood, to wit the issuance of a license to sell alcohol to a convenience store at 2300 Venable Street in Richmond. I received a response to that letter from Ms. Marilyn P. Harris from your office of Public Safety. However, I wrote to your office a second time and have received no response to that letter.

Absent a response to my second letter, I wish to address some issues raised in Ms. Harris’ letter. Her letter states that the Board must balance the concerns of the community against the interests of the property owner in using his property in accordance with its commercial zoning. I think to balance the concerns of a community against the interests of a single property renter – the proprietor of the convenience store in question does not own the property nor does he live in the neighborhood – isn’t justifiable, particularly when evidence, acknowledged by the ABC Board, clearly states that granting the applied-for license puts that neighborhood in jeopardy. Further, there are many businesses with commercial zoning which do not sell alcohol, either on or off premises.

Ms. Harris’ letter further suggests that the Board considers only alcohol violations in its review of an application for a license: “In the current case, the Board found that the applicant did not have a record of past alcohol violations.” If a record of past alcohol violations is the only criterion on which the Board will refuse a license, the method of review is faulty involving a ‘Catch 22′ which those opposing a license have no way of overcoming.

Virginia Code states the ABC Board may refuse to grant a license for a number of reasons.

The Board may refuse to grant a license if it has reasonable cause to believe that the applicant is unable to speak, understand, read and write the English language in a reasonably satisfactory manner. Although the phrase ‘reasonably satisfactory manner’ leaves a lot of wiggle room, the applicant in the current case presented a written statement for the Board to read at the appeal, stating that he did so because his English was so poor.

Further, the Board may refuse to grant a license if it has reasonable cause to believe that the place to be occupied by the applicant is, among other things,
So located that granting a license and operation thereunder by the applicant would result in”¦violation of the laws of the Commonwealth or local ordinances relating to peace and good order;
So located with respect to any”¦ residential area that the operation of such place under such license will”¦substantially interfere with the usual quietude and tranquility of such”¦residential area;
So located with respect to any church”¦that the operation of such place under such license will adversely affect or interfere with the normal, orderly conduct of the affairs of such facilities or institutions; and
That the number of licenses existent in the locality is such that the granting of a license is detrimental to the interest, morals, safety or welfare of the public.

Evidence and statements were given either at the hearing or the appeal which speak directly to all of these issues. However, for reasons which elude me still, the Board found that only the first two objections were valid, stating in its letter notifying of the granting of the license, that “Upon review of the record and appeal argument, the Board is of the opinion that it has reasonable cause to believe that the objections are substantiated by the evidence”¦”

Ms. Harris’ letter also stated that the applicant had taken “”¦several new security measures.” There have been exterior lights at the store for at least 5 years, so they aren’t new security measures. The applicant posted new signs about no trespassing or loitering but does nothing to enforce either. So, although these signs (both of them) are new, they certainly aren’t new security measures. However, the applicant has installed security cameras inside his store which scan only the interior of the store. The cameras certainly have a beneficial impact on his safety and on the safety of his inventory but have nothing to do with the safety of the neighborhood. So, the “”¦several new security measures” begs explanation in regard to the issues raised in our opposition to the granting of the ABC license.

Further reading of Virginia code tells me that at the end of a twelve-month period the restricted license granted to the applicant can be amended to an unrestricted license with no notification to or input from the neighborhood. Here I quote my second, unanswered, letter to you: What do ‘we the people’ do when we follow the rules but the very government elected to safeguard and protect our rights does just the opposite”¦puts us in the line of fire, literally and figuratively – and decides instead for the benefit of one rather than the many? Richmond has the state’s highest rate of murder, robbery, aggravated assault, and rape. All of these factors have a direct connection to alcohol consumption. So, what course should we take to safeguard against the risk to which the ABC Board has exposed our Richmond neighborhood?


Ann L. Wortham
Richmond, VA 23220



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