The Cobb Board of Commissioners on Tuesday denied a waiver request for alcohol sales at a South Cobb Walmart because the store is fewer than 600 feet from a church.
According to county law, a waiver may be granted for a business closer than 600 feet to a school or church if it can show that the sale of alcohol won't affect property values or adversely affect the school or church.
The Walmart is at the intersection of Barrett Parkway and Powder Springs Road.
Evidence presented by Walmart's attorney used a nearby RaceTrac as an example. The convenience store is more than 600 feet from the church—Pine Grove Baptist Church in Powder Springs—and has been selling beer and wine for several years.
"No evidence has been presented to this board today within 600 feet," Commissioner Bob Ott said. "We're asked to extrapolate."
But Commission Chairman Tim Lee said that he interpreted Walmart's argument to show that the church's property value hasn't decreased since Race Trac began selling alcohol. He was the only one who favored approval in the 4-1 vote.
"My reading of this is slightly different than yours," Lee told Ott.
Commissioner Joann Birrell said approving the waiver would set a precedent.
"Laws are made for a reason," she said. "Whether they're antiquated or not, that remains to be seen. The law is the law. I think we need to look at the 600 foot rule and abide by that today."
Eleven people attended the meeting in opposition to the waiver request. Kenneth Carroll, a deacon at Pine Grove Baptist, said that Walmart tried six years ago to persuade the church to sign an agreement to let them sell alcohol.
"We told them that based on scriptural standards, we could not and would not," Carroll told the commission. "They seemed pleased with that and went on their way."
Carroll said his issue isn't with property values but with children and faith.
"We feel like alcohol is an addiction, a drug," he said.
Church Pastor Bobby Wood said that there are many people who shop at that specific Walmart because it doesn't offer beer or wine.
"We feel like there are already enough places to buy beer if they want to," Wood said. "If they're interested in meeting the needs of their customers, they need to sell gasoline."
Greta Lindqvist, an assistant store manager, said that she's never had a customer thank her for not selling beer and wine. In fact, most people ask her why the store doesn't sell alcohol, she said.
"I have to direct them to the RaceTrac or another store," Lindqvist told the commission. "A lot of times, it ends with them saying, 'I'm sorry,' handing me their buggy, and leaving so they can make all their purchases in one place."
Walmart attorney Jarrod Loadholt said county records show that in the last several years, none of the properties mentioned during the hearing have seen a decrease in property values.
"Every party has seen their property values increase or, in the church's case, remain the same the entire time RaceTrac has been selling beer and wine," Loadholt said.
Wood said he was happy with the outcome of the hearing.
"We're just happy that the board saw it our way," he said. "They saw what we saw, that the law was written for a purpose."
But the pastor said he thinks Walmart will try again to get the waiver.
"I think they'll continue," he said. "They may wait a while. I don't know why they waited six years, but they tried it."