Tempers briefly flared at the Oct. 16 city council meeting during discussion of a resolution authorizing a procedure to request extension of the amortization period for electronic gaming establishments.
On Aug. 3, 2010, city council passed an ordinance setting certain separation requirements that were designed to keep electronic gaming establishments away from schools and churches. Twelve such establishments were in violation of the new ordinance at the time it was passed, and were given a two year amortization period to relocate or recover their investments. One establishment has moved to accommodate the new restrictions. 11 are still in violation.
Rivenbark said these businesses came to Wilmington to start legitimate businesses and complied with city practices, only to be shut down by this new ordinance that “virtually outlawed” their business.
“We're not the moral police,” Rivenbark said. “What scares me is what business comes next?”
Councilman Kevin O'Grady responded by saying that they hadn't outlawed the businesses, just placed stricter limits on where they could operate. He also compared the ordinance in discussion with its predecessor in Bessemer City which gave electronic gaming establishments only a six month amortization period.
“We've been extraordinarily generous,” O'Grady said. “Some of these businesses may be shut out now, but it's by their own doing. Obviously these people sat on their rights. They played chicken.”
Rivenbark said O'Grady was “as wrong as he can be,” and that there is no place for these businesses to go now, just like there was nowhere for them to go two years ago.
The resolution passed 6-1, with Rivenbark opposed. Electronic gaming establishments in violation of the zoning restrictions may petition for an extension, but if that request is denied, they will receive a notice of violation, informing them of the amount of time they have to bring their establishment into compliance before becoming subject to penalties.