Sweepstakes Stamp Fee, Rental Property Ordinances Move Forward
Irmo Town Council members voted on second readings of ordinances concerning sweepstakes machines, rental properties and the 2012-203 budget at a regular meeting Tuesday night.
Irmo Town Council is one step closer to requiring businesses with sweepstakes/amusement machines in the town to pay a fee.
Council voted 4-1 in favor of second reading of an ordinance to charge a $500 stamp fee per machine. Businesses would pay for the fee every year.
Mayor Hardy King was the only member to oppose the ordinance stating he thought the machines were illegal.
The machines have been seen in convenience stores in Irmo and West Columbia, and across the state. Users of the machines purchase Internet time or phone cards and are given a chance to play different games like poker.
Some judges and the State Law Enforcement Division has said the machines are illegal, but others have said the games are like any other sweepstakes game.
In Richland County, at least two Internet sweepstakes cafes are open, according to The State.
In Beaufort County, a judge ruled that the machines were "tools for illegal gambling," the Island Packet reported.
Mayor Pro Tem Barry Walker Sr. said he was going to let the state government figure out whether the machines were illegal or not.
Meanwhile, the town would collect money from the fee Walker proposed council approve.
"I'm not trying to make it easy for them to put sweepstakes machines in their business," Walker said. "I want them to pay us if they decide to do it."
Walker said he thought the fee was excessive enough but not ridiculous.
He said he hope the fee would make businesses think twice about operating the machines because it would cost them.
The Irmo Planning Commission met Monday to discuss zoning districts for the video sweepstakes machines but decided to take no action.
Bob Brown, the town's administrator, said the commission tabled the discussion because members thought the machines were illegal and didn't make any recommendations on the matter.
Irmo Police Chief Brian Buck has also said the machines were illegal and had previously suggested the town pass a temporary moratorium on the machines.
In February, Reggie Lloyd, SLED's former chief, said he supported the games saying they were "less like poker and more like a lottery sweepstakes."
Rental property registration ordinance
The proposed ordinance concerning landlords in the town and standards for the maintenance of rental properties passed second reading unanimously.
During the meeting, council members made several amendments to the ordinance that was proposed after councilman Paul Younginer said he received complaints from residents about dilapidated homes.
One of the changes dealt with the height of grass at a rental property. The ordinance originally said the height of grass couldn't exceed 8 inches.
Councilwoman Kathy Condom suggested increased the height to 12 inches.
Jake Moore, the town's attorney, suggested council members should look at including a hardship waiver for those who are unable to afford the maintenance on the homes.
Council will have third and final reading at its next regular meeting.
A public hearing was held before the regular session to hear comments on the proposed 2012-2013 operating budget and the proposed rental property ordinance.
Steve Crater, owner and broker at Centre Realty in Irmo, was the only person to speak during the public hearing. About 25 people were present during the hearing.
Crater, who said he manages more than 100 homes in Irmo, spoke out against the proposed rental property ordinance, which focuses on landlords and not all residents in the town of Irmo.
Crater asked said council should look at an ordinance that addressed both landlords and homeowners, not just landlords.
"I don't think it's fair," Crater said.
Council members said the they would eventually address all residents, not just landlords.
Crater talked about how some property owners might not be able to afford to make the necessary repairs that have been filed in a complaint as soon as is required, if at all.
He also said he doesn't agree with landlords having to pay $50 per home and having an inspection before people are able to move in.
He said there are existing laws already covering upkeep of homes and the town has code enforcement to address any issues.
In other business,
- Council approved second reading of the 2012-2013 budget, which totals $4,446,492. The budget does not include any millage for property taxes.
- The Irmo Town Park is the proposed location for the 2012 Okra Strut Festival, Kirk Luther, chairman of the Okra Strut Commission, said during the council's receipt of communications.
- Council discussed supporting a proposed Macedonia Baptist Church parade. No action was taken.
Irmo Town Council's next regular meeting is scheduled for June 19 at 7 p.m.
Sign up for the free newsletter to get daily headlines and breaking news alerts.