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Spring Hope to consider electronic gaming center

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Spring Hope commissioners will be asked next week to expand possible locations for electronic gaming and restaurants and to rezone an existing business property to allow for electronic games.

The Spring Hope Planning Board on Feb. 21 voted to recommend text amendments to the town’s zoning ordinance to allow electronic gaming operations in both the HI heavy industrial and LI light industrial zones and to allow restaurants, both with and without drive-thrus, to be located in both the LI and HI zones.

Currently, the ordinance allows electronic gaming only in the HI zone, with a list of restrictions, and restaurants are limited to the central, general and interchange business districts.

The expansion of electronic gaming was sparked by a request by Steve Batchelor, who said he wants to open an electronic gaming operation at 803 E. Nash St., now within the general business district. The property was formerly operated as a restaurant/bar called the Tar River Yacht Club, but Batchelor said he had evicted the former tenants and the building is now empty.

Batchelor told the town he might also expand and open a partial restaurant “possibly in the future.”

Accommodating Batchelor’s request requires the town to allow electronic gaming in the light-industrial district and then rezone Batchelor’s property from GB to LI. Batchelor has officially submitted the rezoning request.

The proposed text amendment not only expands the permitted zone for gaming, it also proposes a variety of tweaks to the current ordinance. It would allow the business to have up to 20 machines, increased from 10 now, and sets an annual fee of $100 per machine. It also relaxes the distance between the business and homes from 300 to 100 feet apart.

Proposed additions to the ordinance also prohibit people younger than 18 from the premises, require a “clear and unobstructed view of the interior from the street,” prohibits framing the building, doors or windows with lighting and requires the operation to “meet all federal, state and local codes and ordinances or forfeit permits to operate.”

The ordinance already prohibits smoking and alcohol within the establishment and sets the permitted hours no earlier than 9 a.m. nor later than 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

The town board will hold a public hearing on the text amendment and on Batchelor’s rezoning request during its regular meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at the town hall.

The planning board’s proposal to allow restaurants in the light- and heavy-industrial zones arose out of the discussion about Bachelor’s potential restaurant, Town Manager Jae Kim said Monday. The restaurants are already allowed in the town’s business districts, although drive-thrus are not allowed in the central business district.

“Not all of industrial districts are heavy intense uses and the planning board agreed that if a restaurant wants to serve potential businesses within those areas, they should,” he said. “If some uses are too intense, it would be for the applicant business or restaurant to determine that.”

The proposed change, which includes both regular and drive-thru restaurants, also requires a public hearing on Monday.