Blanding Council leaves alcohol issue to voters

Voters, and voters only, will determine if there is to be a change in the alcohol sales policy in Blanding. The Blanding City Council on March 26 declined to make a change in the policy through a council action and also defeated a motion that would have put the issue on the November ballot.
Blanding has not permitted the sale of alcoholic beverages since the community was founded more than 100 years ago.
Councilman Robert Ogle moved to put an item on the ballot. The ballot item would simply state: “Blanding City will permit the licensed and regulated sale of beer and wine in the retail and hospitality businesses within Blanding City limits, in accordance with Utah state law.”
The motion was seconded in order to allow discussion. It became clear that the council did not want to decide the matter for the community and the motion failed 4-1.
Supporters of the proposal were urged to pursue the matter through a citizen’s petition. A petition would put the measure on the ballot if it contained the name of ten percent city voters.
“If supporters think they can get 51 percent of the vote in an election, then getting ten percent to sign a petition should be a cinch,” said Councilman Joe B Lyman.
A petition would need to be submitted and verified by April 10 in order for the issue to be on the November, 2013 ballot.
The matter was on the ballot more than two decades ago and the vote then supported the continued ban of alcohol sales.
Councilman Kelly Laws said, “The citizenry voted against this. If they want to change it, they should get it on the ballot. They ought to take the bull by the horns instead of relying on three councilmen to do the work.”
A number of city residents spoke on the matter. While expressing a wide range of opinions, the majority supported putting the issue on the ballot.
Bill Haven said that many of the fears related to alcohol sales might not be valid. “Let businesses choose,” said Haven, who added that Blanding gets bad press because of the alcohol ban.
Haven said the Peace Tree is the only restaurant in Monticello that sells beer, and Monticello doesn’t get the bad press.
He added, “Selling alcohol gives us a level playing field with our competitors.”
Cody Nielson said that he loved Blanding and wants it to remain unique. “I definitely don’t want to be Moab,” Nielson added. “If Moab is what they are looking for, then let them go there.”
In other matters, Jeff Whipple was hired as a city police officer and the council approved a letter asking residents to not leave abandoned vehicles on city streets or rights-of-way.
Questions regarding expired animal rights were answered when city officials found a letter from 2003 in which a city resident said they were relinquishing their animal rights. The resident had asked recently why they were not on the animal rights map.
The city may more aggressively monitor unlicensed contractors. There has been some ambiguity whether the enforcement is a state or a local issue. Mayor Turk said the city has an obligation to protect local businesses who have a proper license.
A number of citizens asked the council to address issues on city streets. This includes a request for flashing speed signs at the entrances to town and a complaint that trailers, trucks and cars are parking too close to intersections.
Other requests include a crosswalk and signage on 300 West and at the corner of Main Street and 500 South and for increased traffic patrols on Center Street.

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