Beer sales issue will go on ballot

Published 9:40 am Friday, September 2, 2011

Whether the University Mart on Liberty Avenue can have beer sales will be up to the voters this November, despite efforts of a nearby resident to keep it off the ballot.

Last week Annette Cooper lodged a challenge to the issue being on the ballot.

The beer sales would be allowed in a dry precinct and the petition is to allow the sales at one particular venue. It was filed by John Clark Oil, doing business as University Mart.

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During a hearing Thursday the Lawrence County Board of Elections disallowed that challenge on the grounds that it does not have the jurisdiction. Before the board voted, Judge Charles Cooper spoke on behalf of his wife.

“It is a relevant challenge in this particular situation,” Cooper told the board. “The petition addresses one location that is within 500 feet of schools. I think this is a proper objection. … Beer sales would go on directly near some property of Ironton High School and most of Ohio University.”

When the possibility of liquor sales would occur within 500 feet of a school or church, those institutions must be notified to allow them to make an objection to the sales.

“I am sympathetic to your position,” Craig Allen, elections board chair, said. “There are underage children going through programs there.”

However, an opinion from Assistant Prosecutor Mack Anderson said that in this case the elections board had no other choice but to allow the issue to go on the ballot.

“It is our opinion that the issues involving whether or not a liquor permit applicant would meet the various requirements under Ohio law to obtain a liquor permit is determined by the Ohio Division of Liquor Control,” Anderson wrote in a letter to the board. “The board of elections would not have the jurisdiction to determine whether or not a liquor permit applicant qualifies for a liquor permit. We believe the board of elections’ sole responsibility would be to determine the validity of the petition … as to whether or not the issue should be placed before the voters of the particular precinct.”

If the voters allow the sales, objections could then by made to the liquor control division. There are 323 voters in Precinct 4C.

The other challenge heard by the board concerned whether C.D. Pemberton should be allowed to run for the office of Symmes Township Trustee.

The challenge claimed that Pemberton is not a resident of that township. Pemberton held that office eight years earlier, but since then did run for an office in Aid.

At that time he had his voter registration in Aid Township. He has since changed that registration.

The challenge was made by incumbent Cecil Mays.

“He works on a farm at Aid Township and that is his residence,” Mays told the board. “That is where he gets his paycheck. He sleeps in Aid Township.”

However, Pemberton refuted Mays’ contention.

“He is grasping at straws because I will beat him,” Pemberton said. “It is ridiculous that we all have to come together for his scaredness.”

After a 15-minute private session, the board also disallowed Mays’ challenge for lack of sufficient evidence.