Only one of three proposed Columbia County liquor stores will be permitted to operate at one of the community’s busiest intersections – possibly in six months.
The three businesses applying for liquor licenses wanted to build their stores within about 500 feet of one another at the corner of Furys Ferry and Evans to Locks roads. State law requires a distance of at least 1,500 feet between such businesses.
The county’s Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to grant an alcohol license to Samrat Patel, who plans to erect and operate his liquor store at the Evans intersection’s northwest corner.
The 1.075-acre property lies between the station for Columbia County Fire Rescue Engine Co. 3 fronting Furys Ferry and the Camellia Walk assisted living facility fronting Evans to Locks.
Patel and his associates have been working on this project for more than a year, he told commissioners.
“Now that we’ve actually got our site approval by the planning department, we're able to start construction as soon as possible, and we can have this site up and running within six months,” Patel said.
One of the two unsuccessful applicants, Pranav Patel, has 1.8 acres of land under contract at 671 Furys Ferry Road, near the intersection’s southeast corner in Martinez. He also operates Augusta Beverage Center on Wrightsboro Road across from Augusta Mall.
Allowing his business would be allowing an owner who’s committed to being a good civic neighbor, he said. The business’ name would not even include the words “liquor” or “alcohol.”
Pranav Patel’s family also lives just two miles from the proposed site, making him a stakeholder in upholding the community’s quality, he said.
“For the members of our community who are uncomfortable with a liquor store, I would hope this would alleviate some concern, because of those entering through our property will be there for one reason and, (from) our experience with other stores, will be far less likely to have their children with them,” Patel said.
Attorney Jack Long represented co-applicants of the other denied license, Niren and Shivangini Patel, on behalf of their limited liability company Manshiv Enterprises.
Long told commissioners that Manshiv Enterprises already had an alcohol license, since expired, that led to their retaining an architect and starting preliminary site work on property near the southwest corner of the intersection, next to a Walgreens pharmacy.
Their request is to renew that license and allow an extension to allow more time to complete their plans.
“If we want to ban all liquor, I think that’s been tried and it didn’t work. I think if you’re going to have these stores, they need to be well-run (in a) decent location and needed to enhance the community,” Long said.
Mike Murray, who lives a mile from the intersection, presented statistics to commissioners that connect liquor stores with rises in surrounding crime rates, and that the lost quality of life far outweighs whatever tax benefit the county might receive.
“It’s a wonderful place to live. People are attracted to this area, businesses come to this area, people come to pay taxes in this area because of the quality of life,” he said. “Do we really want to risk this for a few short-term monetary gains?”
Murray also presented a petition signed by dozens of nearby residents. “If we’d had more than four days and right before Christmas, we could've gotten many more times that,” he said.
“The residents of District 1 have spoken, and it is strongly preferred that we not have another package store in that neighborhood area," District 1 Commissioner Connie Melear said.
This article originally appeared on Augusta Chronicle: Columbia County allows one proposed liquor store at busy intersection