Priceville's vote to allow liquor sales might have come as a surprise to some, but not so much among those who live amid the squiggly lines that distinguish Priceville from Decatur.
A visitor can enter and leave Priceville a number of times, just by visiting a handful of shops on either side of Alabama 67. Amid that landscape, a pair of liquor stores — on the Decatur side — have done business for a good many years.
Driving down Point Mallard Parkway, you pass Windmill Beverages, which sells alcoholic beverages, just before the Priceville line. About a half-mile down the road, Priceville extends north of the highway, then retreats back south, creating an opening filled in part by a Bud's convenience store. One of its conveniences is beer.
Clearly, a good many citizens of Priceville never considered their city all that dry in the first place. Last week's election was a good opportunity to make sure some of the revenue that passes through their main drag stays in Priceville.
The investment might also lead to further development along Interstate 65. Restaurant chains nationwide have said liquor sales often make the decision on whether to locate within a community.
Hartselle voters clearly felt more was at stake in their decision once again to deny alcohol sales. Their city has I-65 access, too, but the freeway does not slice through its heart, nor does it already have standing liquor stores in its midst.
The division in Hartselle is one of vision — a divergence in ideal paths for the city to chart its future. One, so far the minority, wants to remove a strain on city coffers and grow in size and access. The majority has expressed an approval of Hartselle as it is — a quaint, quiet hometown with proud schools and churches, untempted by the profits of "sin tax" revenue.
It's a philosophical debate that has valid concerns on both sides and is common in American cities and towns. And it's not going away: Pro-alcohol sales activists in Hartselle are already gearing up for a 2014 vote.
Priceville seemed to have little reaction to its pro-alcohol vote. Responses were civil and respectful. Business owners did not speak as if it were the news of the day, though a few noted they might create space to accommodate alcohol sales.
The community makeup in Hartselle is different than that of Priceville, but the coming years might allow Hartselle to take stock of how Priceville's vote plays out.
Both cities set a course last week. As long as their citizens are respectful and maintain a healthy discourse, their decisions will be good ones.
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