Café dialogue tabledPublished 11:10pm Thursday, August 2, 2012
Washington’s City Council, during its last meeting, postponed discussion of the Internet café/sweepstakes issue.
“I know there was proposed legislation that did not pass there (in the N.C. General Assembly). I’m not sure if that’s relevant to this discussion item,” Mayor Archie Jennings said when the council reached the issue on its agenda for its July 23 meeting.
Council member William Pitt suggested discussion on the matter be tabled until the Legislature reconvenes and takes up the matter. The council accepted his recommendation.
In May 2010, the city imposed a 90-day moratorium on new sites for electronic gaming operations (Internet sweepstakes cafes) in the city and its extraterritorial jurisdiction. Those operations also have been under scrutiny by the N.C. General Assembly and state courts.
In March, the N.C. Court of Appeals, in a split-decision, found that any state law that prohibits “the reveal of a prize” by way of an entertaining display “directly regulates protected speech under the First Amendment” and is unconstitutional. Attorneys with the state attorney general’s office are appealing that decision.
The council unanimously approved the moratorium after receiving a recommendation that it do so from the Planning Board. The board said the moratorium would allow it and the city’s planning staff an opportunity to review Internet sweepstakes operations and their compatibility with the city’s land-use plan and other land uses.
The council’s imposition of the moratorium, which took effect immediately upon council’s approval, came after a public hearing on the issue.
Internet sweepstakes cafes that have been properly permitted and licensed by the city may continue to operate.
In other business, the council decided it wants the committee that planned the improvements at Beebe Memorial Park (near the Beaufort County Boys & Girls Club site on Bridge Street) consulted about installing playground equipment at the park.
“Beebe Park … is a beautiful park as it is. It’s very well sculptured. The only thing is it’s a play desert. There’s not any playground equipment in that park,” said Pitt. “I know there was some discussion among the committee that we want to leave it as park — just for beautification. I think when you involve the neighborhood in having a park, it involves children, it involves parents. It makes the neighborhood seem more alive to have people centralized in one location. I’d just like us to take a look at it. … This is something I’d like to see us look into down the road, maybe in the next budget year.”
Pitt said the Washington Housing Authority, which has residential units near the park, would like playground equipment at the park.
Jennings said the city must consult with the committee regarding anything that would change the general appearance of the park. Jennings said he believes the committee would say it prefers to have bathrooms at the park rather than playground equipment.
“I’m not trying to guess at that. I’ve just had some interaction with that group on an ongoing basis,” Jennings said. “It’d be a great time to re-engage them. So, we’ll do that.”