Rincon Zoning Controversy

The location of a future convenience store in Rincon is just too close for one church. The problem isn't so much the store, but some of what it will sell: alcohol.

Effingham County's ordinance reads "no licensee shall knowingly and intentionally sell or offer to sell any wine or malt beverages within 300 yards of any church, school building or school grounds." It sounds pretty cut and dry, but that depends on how, exactly, those 300 yards are measured.

"I don't have a problem with a BP station," said Pastor Andy Brownly of Goshen United Methodist Church. "But why do we have a place that's going to sell beer and wine across from a church?"

It's how far across from the church that has the pastor asking questions, because once the BP is up and running, it will sell alcohol. The county says the BP complies with the ordinance at 300 plus yards away from the church. Brownly says it's actually less than 200, violating the ordinance.

The reason the measurements don't match up is because of how they were taken. The church measured from the property lines, the county measured from door to door.

Jackie Davis is Effingham County's zoning administrator. He is the one who determined the BP was 300 plus yards from the church.

"We measured from front door to front door of the business, the way you would drive a car," he told us.

Pastor Brownly described Davis' route, saying, "He went out the driveway, around Goshen Road, down Goshen Road, behind the BP station, into the BP station, and then back around front."

Brownly argues that, had the measurement been done the opposite way, from the the BP to the church, the end result would have been much different.

"There's a one-way section of the road that comes straight through the front of our building, which would have cut off about 100 yards of what they traveled," he said.

We talked with the county attorney and he says there is nothing officially written stating how to measure when it comes to this particular ordinance, and he also said it's just a matter of routine. But, Brownly says even if the BP is able to sell alcohol, the law should be changed to avoid another problem like this is the future.

Reported by: Dmitra Denmark