The town of Elon council voted unanimously to create a social district in downtown Elon during the Sep. 26 work session meeting. The council also heard from members of the Elon community, including members of the group Alamance Peace Action, in support of the town adopting a resolution to support the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The town did not vote on the resolution and tabled further discussion, including amending the resolution to be more Elon specific and including action steps, until the October meeting. 

Creating a social district

The town of Elon council has discussed the idea of creating a social district in the downtown area for four meetings, and tonight voted to approve the district. A social district, which will include areas surrounding MaGerk’s and Tangent on West Lebanon Avenue and Pandora’s Pies on West College Avenue, is an area that allows patrons of downtown businesses to purchase alcohol and drink it outdoors. Drinking outdoors is not permitted outside of the social district, per North Carolina open container laws. 

While the social district allows drinks to be consumed outside, it is very specific to how and when people of age can utilize the district, based on ABC laws. For example, a person can only have an alcoholic beverage in the specific container outlined in the ordinance, and they can only drink a beverage purchased from a business in the social district, with a designated social district cup.

A rendering of the updated social downtown district for the town of Elon (Town of Elon).

Jill Weston, town of Elon downtown development director, and Chief of the town of Elon Police Department Kelly Blackwelder, presented the updated social district map pictured below, and answered specific questions from the previous town hall meeting. 

Weston said she wants Elon University students and families alike to utilize the new district. 

“You guys are all members of the community, to participate in everything that we do, including the social district,” Weston said. “It’s good for everybody, but we definitely want and encourage students to feel like it’s a cool thing.”

Resolution to support the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons 

Town of Elon community members and members of the Alamance Peace Action presented to the town council on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The treaty was originally adopted by the United Nations in 2017 and those in support urge the town of Elon to become one of many municipalities who have declared their support for the eradication of nuclear weapons. Among those who signed the request letter were several Elon University faith leaders, town of Elon and city of Burlington faith leaders and the Alamance NAACP. Randy Orwig, council member and pastor at Elon Community Church, brought the resolution to the council for discussion.

“We don’t have to say anything more than yes,” Orwig said. “We might add another little voice that would say that something like nuclear weapons is not needed.”

Kyra O'Connor | Elon News Network
Linda Dunn, an Elon University professor of peace and conflict studies and town of Elon resident, addresses town of Elon council members on Sep. 26.

Linda Dunn, an Elon University professor of peace and conflict studies and town of Elon resident, addressed council members first. As a peacemaker throughout her life, Dunn said she may be a “little person,” but she has made a difference in her work of mediation, and knows Elon can do the same.

“If you think Elon is a small place that can’t make a difference — we can make a difference,” Dunn said. “I do think the little town of Elon can make a difference by signing this.” 

Dunn said while residents may think that nuclear weapons are a distant threat, she thinks of her own experience teaching peer meditation in schools in the 1990s. She never thought a gun would be taken into a school for mass shootings and was shocked when the Columbine mass school shooting took place in 1999. Dunn said nuclear weapons are another weapon, similar to how she felt about guns in schools thirty years ago, and may not be a distant threat in the future. 

While all council members agreed with the sentiment of the resolution, Council Member Monti Allison and Mayor Emily Sharpe both posed questions about how the resolution could be seen as performative, as it is non-binding and has no action attached to it. 

“I think everyone agrees that a world with no nuclear weapons is the best world to be in,” Sharpe said. “But I want to do something. I don’t want to sign a piece of paper that’s performative. I want to know what I can do.”

Sharpe asked town of Elon staff to look into what it would take to make the town a nuclear free zone, or what other action could look like to incorporate in addition to a resolution. The council will continue the discussion during its October meeting. 

May property donation

The family of William Henry May, an industrial pioneer in Alamance County, offered a donation of land to the town of Elon totaling over five acres near Loop Road and North Carolina Highway no. 87. After hearing a presentation about the land, the council moved to accept the land donation. 

The town council is holding a community meeting on Sep. 29 at 6 p.m. at the Elon Community Church to hear from residents. The next meeting for Elon Town Council will be held on Oct. 11 at 7:30 p.m.