By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
SPRUCE PINE – Just over half of the registered voters in this Mitchell County town turned out on March 10 to vote on alcohol sales.
According to the N.C. Board of Elections, the outcome was similar in all four races, roughly 56 percent in favor of the sale of malt beverages, unfortified wine and mixed drinks, as well as an ABC store. Some 840 ballots were cast with the margin just under 100 votes on each issue.
The outcome was disappointing to the Rev. Matt Mills at Grassy Creek Baptist and other members of Citizens Against Alcohol in Spruce Pine, which had worked to educate voters on the issue and the negative impact of alcohol sales on communities.
Mills had said before the election that alcohol proponents were promoting liquor sales as a way to improve the economy, create jobs and encourage redevelopment. Others pushing for the referendum had contended that the sale of alcohol at Grassy Creek Golf and Country Club via a special permit was unfair to retailers who were not allowed to do so.
An organization called Partners for Progress led a petition drive garnering more than 600 signatures to trigger the referendum.
Tucked high in the Appalachian Mountains near North Carolina’s border with Tennessee, Spruce Pine is located in one of only five dry counties in North Carolina. In recent years, the town has worked to promote itself as a tourist destination and the “Home of the Perfect Christmas Tree.”
The century-old town suffered a major loss late in the summer of 2007 when an arsonist set fire to several buildings downtown.
“It is discouraging to see such a fine town embrace alcohol sales,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina.
At least two more areas are considering following suit this spring. Both Kings Mountain and Chatham County will have alcohol votes on May 5.