Bill that would have allowed liquor at Rarity Pointe withdrawn

By Hugh Willett
A bill before the state legislature that would have allowed the sale of liquor by the drink at the troubled Rarity Pointe development in Loudon County has been withdrawn by one of its sponsors.

Sen. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, sponsored Senate bill 2216, which passed the Senate last year. Rep. Ulysses Jones Jr., D-Memphis, sponsored House bill 2360, which was to be voted on earlier this week.

The bills would have granted "premier resort" status to the Rarity Pointe development.

Premier resort status can be granted by the state to allow sale of liquor in specific locations regardless of local restrictions.

Rarity Pointe developer Mike Ross, creator of the Rarity-branded upscale communities across East Tennessee, said he applied for the status for the Rarity Pointe Club because it was the only way to get a liquor license for a location outside Lenoir City limits.

McNally said he recalled the bill to the Senate earlier this week because of contacts from officials in Loudon County government opposed to the bill. He said he also had concerns about the financial health of the Rarity Pointe project.

"We provided this status for Rarity Bay," McNally said. "It's fairly obvious the other development (Rarity Pointe) isn't going anywhere."

Lot sales have been slow and the promised infrastructure has not been completed at Rarity Pointe. Ross also faces a lawsuit from Rarity Pointe partner Robert Stooksbury.

The lawsuit alleges fraud and misrepresentations by Ross related to investments made by Stooksbury in the project. Ross denied the allegations and has filed a countersuit. Ross was unavailable for comment Friday.

McNally said he had been contacted by Loudon County Commissioner Bob Franke, who had concerns about granting a liquor license to the location. The Rarity Pointe development is within Franke's district.

"I appreciate commissioner Franke updating me on the status of Rarity Pointe," McNally said.

Franke said he wrote letters to both McNally and state Rep. Jimmy Matlock, R-Loudon County, expressing his opposition to the premier resort bills. Franke said he is concerned that such legislation takes power away from local governments.

Matlock had already said he would vote against the bill because the premier resort process bypassed the voters of Loudon County.