Zebulon commissioners will soon consider a recommendation from the planning board to approve changes in the town’s zoning rules that would expand the number of places around town that could host a bar or pub.
Those changes would allow bars to operate in downtown and in other areas that are generally near the existing locations where bars can already operate.
But we aren’t convinced that’s the kind of use we want to see springing up in such visible locations as downtown, or along other parts of Arendell and Gannon Avenues.
The impetus for the change, according to the town staff, is that the town’s planning department has recently seen an uptick in requests to operate those kinds of businesses in areas where they aren’t currently allowed.
Town planner Matt Watterson also pointed out, in his presentation to the planning board, that Zebulon’s rules are generally more restrictive than in many other towns.
That, in and of itself, is not a good reason to change the rules. Zoning ordinances – like other laws – should reflect the general will of the people. Zebulon has historically shown disdain for such businesses and we don’t believe the general population’s outlook on that issue has changed significantly. We have certainly not heard any general swell of support for more bars in town.
Before they decide the matter, town commissioners would do well to get the perspective of the town’s police chief, whose officers will be charged with the responsibility of catching drunk drivers before they hurt themselves or others and whose officers will be called to these establishments to referee fights and other aggressive behavior.
We think commissioners will find that, despite the existence of empty storefronts in downtown, the kind of businesses that fills those storefronts still really matters.