Setback variance denied for gaming operation

Hare Road area residents on Tuesday voiced concerns about heavy traffic on a small dead-end road, late-night hours, litter and the potential for crime as reasons for their opposition to a proposed internet sweepstakes business near their homes.

Goldsboro, NC  Sitting as the Board of Adjustment, Wayne County commissioners held a public hearing Tuesday morning on a setback variance request from Corey Cooper for that business at 648 Hare Road.

The request was denied by a 6-0 vote with Commissioner John Bell recusing himself. Bell told us he did so because he knows the family and also does not know enough about the gaming operation.

Cooper had requested a dimensional variance from the county’s Electronic Gaming Operations Ordinance in order to open and operate an internet gaming facility within the required 1,000-foot setback from residential properties.

The ordinance requires that newly established gaming facilities be at least 1,000 feet from residences. The distance is measured from the gaming facility and associated parking to the residential property line.

In this case, there are approximately 11 residential properties within 1,000 feet of the proposed facility.

Cooper operated a gaming facility at the same location in violation of the ordinance, but has since shut down, according to the Wayne County Planning Board.

In order to reopen, Cooper needed the variance to be in compliance and obtain a development permit.

Commissioners received a letter signed by 24 residents in the area opposing the operation. Two other letters opposing the request were also submitted to the board.

Cooper said the business previously had done well as a bingo operation and that he had brought in standup machines that are allowed under state law. There are other bingo locations that have such games, he said.

The county came in with a cease-and-desist order, he said.

“We are not an internet sweepstakes, we are a bingo,” Cooper said.

However, Commissioner Joe Daughtery said the request for the variance said it is for an internet gaming operation.

Cooper said he had operated two other locations including a tobacco store and a vape shop, both of which had the same games.

“The state of North Carolina, as long as I was operating a commercial business, said I could have the games,” Cooper said. “They (city) came in illegally and cut my power and my water off at those two locations.

“So, I am here today just to get on the right side of everything for a variance.”

The location is in the county, away from everything, he said.

As such, Cooper said he did not understand the need for the 1,000-foot setback. There is a sweepstakes business on Berkeley Boulevard adjacent to housing that is allowed to operate, he said.

That is controlled by the city, not the county, and does not apply to what is being sought, Commissioner Bill Pate said.

Phyllis Candler, one of several to speak against the request, said she has lived on Hare Road since 1972.

“This is where we live,” she said. “This is where we are safe, and we want to keep it that way. It’s dangerous. Someone is going to get hurt. It’s not going to be me because I am going to be out of the way. It will be the ones that’s breaking their necks to get in there and start gambling.

“This is where we choose to live, but what we got stuck with is something that somebody else wants. I don’t want it. We don’t need it. We have survived since 1972 without it.”

There is no parking lot and no fence, she said.

It is not far from the U.S. 70 Bypass where anyone could jump over the fence, rob them, jump back across and be gone, Candler said.

Janet Ward said she, too, lives on Hare Road.

Ward said she does not oppose Cooper having a business, but did oppose its being on Hare Road because it is a neighborhood of elderly people, some of whom walk up and down the road.

Ward said she understands that gambling would be going on at the business.

“We just feel like because they are elderly people and they feel pretty safe, and I feel pretty safe in that neighborhood, we thought that if you would consider our opposition to it based on those reasons,” she said. “When you have a place where gambling is going on, it opens it up to being robbed.

“Not only that, but it opens it up to a population that maybe we don’t necessarily want going back and forth in our neighborhood. It is a small street. You don’t hardly have any parking places.”

Brenda Newsome of Hare Road said any traffic that goes down to the building has to turn right directly in front of her house where the road meets her driveway.

“When they had this facility as a bingo place in the past I had to get up every morning and get trash, beer bottles, beer cans, everything out of my yard,” she said. “That was a constant. Most of the traffic that was going there was like at 3 o’clock in the morning on. I don’t know what they could have been doing at 3 o’clock in the morning.

“I don’t mean this ugly, but I don’t see them playing bingo. I have been living there for about 16 years. This is my home, and I pride myself on my yard and try to keep my lot looking good. I just don’t think we need another facility like that in our neighborhood.”

Everyone has a right to make a living, Pate said.

Pate told Cooper he hopes he can find a location, but he would not want a business to open within 300 feet of his home.

“It does not meet the thousand feet, and I do not see a good reason why we would vary the thousand feet ordinance, and I make a motion to not approve the variance,” he said.

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