Originally created 11/19/96

Aiken to recommend zoning changes to limit video poker if it returns

AIKEN - If video poker returns to Aiken County in the near future, don't expect it to be as prevalent as it was when the games were banned in 1994, county officials said Monday.

Administrator Bill Shepherd is expected to recommend to county council today that the county change its zoning requirements in order to limit the locations of video gambling outlets.

The county considered using restrictions similar to Edgefield County, which is requiring new poker parlors to be at least 150 feet from side and rear property lines, but those proved to be unworkable, Mr. Shepherd said.

Ordinances are already in place to charge machine owners a $300 fee on each machine every two years in the county.

More than likely, the machines will only be allowed in UD zoning districts, which allows most commercial operations, including sexually-oriented businesses, planning director Philip England said.

"I do know in some other jurisdictions (around the state) the machines are generally limited to commercial districts," he said. "It's certainly not real appropriate in a single family district."

Video poker has attracted the ire of politicians and residents alike in Aiken County, especially in North Augusta where the games occupied almost every spare building.

The games were declared illegal in Aiken and 11 other counties statewide after a November 1994 county-by-county referendum held statewide on the machines. Two weeks ago, the state Supreme Court threw out the results of the referendum saying a statewide criminal law cannot be enacted on a county-by-county basis.

The state attorney general's office plans to appeal that decision.

At the meeting, the council is also expected to consider a major change in the county's mobile home registration program on first reading.

Between 10,000 and 15,000 mobile homes are registered in the county, but county officials estimate as many as 1,500 are not registered and taxed.

Mobile home owners are required to register with the planning department when they purchase a trailer or move a manufactured home within the county, but some homes are slipping through the cracks, Mr. Shepherd said.

The county plans to start requiring mobile home owners to display a tax decal on their trailer showing they paid taxes on the home each year, Mr. Shepherd said.

The decal program would be similar to the state's program for registering motor vehicles where car owners are required to place a decal on their license plate showing they've paid taxes.

In other business, the council is expected to:

  • Renew the operating agreement with the Aiken Area Council on Aging for the Best Friend Express public transportation system.
  • Approve on second reading procedures for collecting fees in lieu of taxes from SKF USA Inc. and Kimberly-Clark Corp. Both ordinances require a third and final reading.
  • Adopt a fiscal year 1997 budget for the Mattie C. Hall Health Care Center with no changes.

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