Hearing set for ‘Cafes’

Published 9:47 am Thursday, March 15, 2012

MURFREESBORO — A public hearing will be held next week to take comments to further establish a moratorium of Internet sweepstakes cafés here.

In the last regular meeting of the Murfreesboro Town Council, Town Administrator Brandon Holland presented council members with a draft of the proposed temporary moratorium.

In May 2010, the council established a temporary moratorium on such businesses. However, no document was written solidifying the freeze.

A public hearing will be held at 1 p.m. on Monday during a meeting of the Murfreesboro Planning Board.Hollandsaid the meeting is the first step in implementing a valid moratorium.

During discussion, Councilman Randy Roberts noted the Planning Board recommended establishing the moratorium for one year and then revisit the matter.

Councilwoman Gloria Odum said she thought council had agreed not to do anything contrary until the state had moved on the matter.

“This allows us to make that decision,”Hollandresponded. “If we don’t have anything specified then we don’t have anything to stop them from coming.”

Town Attorney Buddy Jones said the North Carolina General Assembly that put a moratorium in effect statewide, but that law was challenged in the Superior Court and was decided to be unconstitutional. He added the Attorney General’s Office will not appeal it.

“This gives the town time to think about rules and regulations for Internet cafés,” he said.

“So technically we can’t stop them,” said Roberts.

Jones said no, but the town can regulate the business hours, how close it can be from a church or another Internet café and other aspects.

Police Chief Darrell Rowe said he had spoken to the police chief of Roanoke Rapids about crime issues around the Internet sweepstake cafés. He said there was no crime rate influx as far as the businesses themselves rather it was crime occurrences outside of the business, when people were coming or leaving the café.

He noted Roanoke Rapids charges the businesses $500 per machine.

Ahoskie also charges Internet sweepstake cafés a $500 fee per machine or $5,000 per year (whichever is greater) for a Privilege License.

Hollandsaid the state has not figured out a way to tax the businesses.

“To get around that you would still have revenue coming in for the fees you would set per machine,”Hollandsaid.

The council gave consensus to set the public hearing.