By Stewart Voegtlin
The Jackson City Council's 3-0 vote last Tuesday night approved a special use exception for the purpose of constructing and operating a distillery on 540 West Third Street.
Council Member Wayne Phillips made the motion to approve; Council Member Lewis Sims seconded Phillips' motion.
Council Member Beth Smith recused herself from the vote because of prior dealings with the applicant, Dan Rivers, and Council Member Theodore Patterson was absent.
The distillery is the collaboration of three Jackson residents: Shawn Hall, Bill Mauldin, and Dan Rivers. The three men operate the business under the name Georgia Distilling Company, LLC.
Hall told the Progress-Argus the business has plans to produce gin, vodka, bourbon, and rye whiskey.
"We will sell our products wholesale to distributors, but not directly to the public," Hall said.
Zoning Administrator Christy Taylor said the submitted application was complete and consistent with the Land Use Plan. Taylor also added a list of staff generated conditions with which the applicant must comply.
- The Council will approve plans designed and construction material of the building or any other buildings that might be constructed on the property before a building permit is issued.
- A professional site plan drawn to scale will be submitted to staff before a building permit is issued.
- A copy of the Department of Transportation permit will be submitted to staff before a building permit is issued.
- The Special Use will be revoked if there is an odor generated from the proposed use once it is in operation.
Jackson Mayor Charlie Brown opened a public hearing to allow people for and against the special use exception the opportunity to speak.
Applicant Dan Rivers said the distillery would be good for the city.
"The distillery will bring good revenue and employment," Rivers said. "With businesses failing the way they are in Jackson, we need it."
Jackson resident Ralph Watson spoke in ambiguous terms about the distillery.
Watson said he wasn't strictly against the business, but was not in favor of what it signified.
"Tearing down homes and putting up industries destroys the uniqueness of Jackson," Watson said. "I object to the location."
The distillery is located across from the County Administration Facility on Third Street, which is also an arterial feed into the town square.
Jackson resident Jeanette Weaver sided with Watson.
"I don't like the location, and I oppose [the distillery] on religious grounds," Weaver said.
Jackson resident W.J. Moss said he had nothing against the applicant but opposed the distillery on moral grounds.
"I've got a situation in my family [that's] alcohol related," Moss said. "More people are killed by alcohol than any other thing in this country. Look it up."
Jackson First Baptist Pastor Joe Bufford spoke to the long-term.
"I'm concerned about the lives this will impact," Bufford said. "What doors will this open in the future for alcohol-related businesses? Who will argue this will bring revenue to our county?"
Mayor Brown told Bufford he couldn't think of any other alcohol-related business that could come into the city except a package-store. Brown said if the Council was presented with a valid petition to sell alcohol within the city limits, they would legally have to hold a referendum.
"I just want you to know, Mr. Bufford: This is not something we would vote on; we would have no choice," Brown said.
Brown also clarified Watson's statement regarding industry.
"The applicants aren't asking to change the zoning from commercial to industrial," Brown said. "They are applying for a special use permit that will allow them to operate the distillery."