Lake Mitchell land initiative passes; ban kept on Sunday off-sale liquorMitchell voters decided to protect land near Lake Mitchell while rejecting a proposal to sell liquor to-go at local businesses on Sundays. The lake land initiated measure was approved 2,806 to 2,525, a 53-47 percent margin.
By: Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic
Mitchell voters decided to protect land near Lake Mitchell while rejecting a proposal to sell liquor to-go at local businesses on Sundays.
The lake land initiated measure was approved 2,806 to 2,525, a 53-47 percent margin.
Sunday off-sale of hard liquor, which was referred to a vote after a City Council decision last year, was defeated 3,054 to 2,385, a 56-44 percent defeat.
Davison County Auditor Susan Kiepke had not calculated the city’s turnout.
The petition on the lake land was turned into the city this summer and forced a vote on an issue that had been a matter of public debate since early this year.
It asked that pieces of real estate owned by the city be permanently dedicated for public use as parks, nature trails, biking trails, hiking trails and similar uses and be preserved to serve as a buffer for surface waters draining into Lake Mitchell.
Sherry Stilley, who was involved in the petition drive to designate the city-owned lake property as park land, said the victory restored her faith in the process.
“I guess we can fight City Hall and win,” Stilley said. “The public will now be able to continue its access to the lake and nature and green space.
“I’m so happy. This is great for the people of Mitchell and Mother Nature.”
Stilley said the people behind the petition drive merely wanted to “preserve the 9.9 acres of pine forest and count all 85 of those pine trees as our blessing.”
She said a victory party for the lake land proponents is being discussed, but a place and time hasn’t been selected yet. Stilley said she wanted to put hard feelings in the past.
“It’s time for all of us to work together to protect nature,” she said.
Mayor Lou Sebert said he still feels the lake land petition is flawed and could lead to a legal challenge.
“I think that’s a bad decision by the public,” he said. “I don’t think the public understood what the initiative said.”
Sebert said no one has countered his argument that city-owned land where the National Guard complex is located as well as the water treatment plant and other city property will be converted to park land.
He claims the use of the term “abuts” could mean city-owned land not intended for this designation will be converted to park land and that could have a long-term impact.
Councilman Mel Olson, who has repeatedly spoken against the initiated measure, said he thought it would pass by many more votes.
“I’m a little surprised by that,” Olson said. “I thought it would be a bigger margin.
“I just think it’s ironic the fate of the trees is in the hands of the City Council as it was before the vote,” he said.
He said the vote “tied the hands” of the Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee. The City Council will have to get clarification on the interpretation of the petition before any action is taken, Olson said.
Sunday off-sale rejected
The Rev. Carroll Torberson, senior pastor at Grace Baptist Church, led the petition drive against the off-sale of alcoholic beverages on Sundays. He was glad to hear the news Tuesday night.
“I think that’s great,” Torberson said. “I’m proud of Mitchell.”
He felt most people opposed the extension of alcohol sales in the city.
“Like I said all along, I think this was a step that was not necessary,” Torberson said. “It was a step in the wrong direction.
“We weren’t campaigning to take anything away. We were just campaigning to keep things as they were.”
Torberson said his “very loosely put-together group” won’t look at other issues or campaign for further restrictions in Mitchell.
“We’re not starting another tea party,” he said. “I guess you could make a pun of that.”
Sebert said he wasn’t going to lose a lot of sleep over the Sunday liquor vote, although he said he didn’t understand why people would differ between going downtown for a drink or two, which is allowed on Sundays, or buying a bottle to take home.
“It’s one of those deals,” he said. “If that’s what the people want, it’s not that big of a deal with me.”
Olson said he wasn’t sure how the vote would go and thought Sebert made good points during their debate on the issue last month, although he said he didn’t think allowing people “to buy a bottle of Jack Daniels would help economic development,” as Sebert claimed.
“I guess I’m a little surprised,” Olson said. “I’m gratified. I think six days to buy hard liquor is enough.”
The law was passed July 6, 2009, by the Mitchell City Council. It would have legalized Sunday sales of “off-sale” liquor, which is liquor consumed off the premises of the establishment making the sale. The law would affect places such as liquor stores and the liquor sections of grocery and convenience stores.