Harold Wyatt, speaking on behalf of Cedartown Citizens for Tax Relief, said that to call for a referendum, the commission must be petitioned by 35 percent of the voter population.
Last year, there were 3,243 registered voters in the Cedartown city limits. Since the November 2003 elections, Cedartown Citizens for Tax Relief challenged the validity of 145 voters, arguing that they were either deceased or no longer Cedartown residents. The challenge hearing was recently held before the Board of Elections committee, who ruled that 97 of the previously mentioned citizens were, in fact, ineligible voters, leaving the total number of registered voters at 3,146.
After the recalculations, the group needed 1,101 signatures to qualify for the referendum.
Wyatt said that as of press time, there are more than enough signatures. “We have 1,120 signatures for package sales on the petition and 1,103 for distilled spirits by the drink.”
After presenting the signatures, hopes the group, the commission will set a referendum date for later this year.
“It will be presented to the commission on April 21. The week following will be a period for the city to verify the signatures,” said Wyatt.
The city will likely have a special meeting on April 28 calling for a referendum on both issues (sales by the package and by the glass).
Although the group is petitioning for a referendum, Wyatt said they are not asking the commission to legalize liquor sales, but for them to leave the choice up to the community.
“This is not for the commission to legalize distilled spirits,” he said, “but to place the decision into the hands of the voters,” he said.
While they are looking to legalize liquor sales, Cedartown Citizens for Tax Relief would like to see guidelines placed on business owners looking to sell the substances. “We are asking the commission to limit the package stores to no more than four and limit the sale of mixed drinks only in food establishments,” Wyatt affirmed. “We do not want bars in Cedartown.”
He said there are four principles Cedartown Citizens for Tax Relief want to establish. “We hope to control the sale of alcoholic beverages in the community, keep the tax revenue at home, attract quality restaurants to the community and help attract quality industry to the community.”
Currently, the group has not done comparison studies based on population, though they have viewed statewide statistics of liquor taxes. “In 2000,” Wyatt stated, “Georgia’s taxes on distilled spirits earned over $9 million in local revenue.”
The liquor petition will mark the second alcohol issue brought before the City this year.
On March 10, the commission unanimously passed an ordinance legalizing the sale of beer and wine in the downtown area. The board restricted the alcohol sales only to those establishments whose majority income is from food purchases.