Archive for December, 2009

Judge Stops Snellville Sunday Liquor Sales

A Gwinnett County judge issued a temporary restraining order against Snellville prohibiting issuance of additional Sunday liquor licenses for the next 30 days.  The judicial prohibition comes two weeks after the Snellville City Council voted to allow restaurants to serve liquor on Sundays.  The judge will decide whether to issue a permanent injunction prohibiting Sunday liquor licenses on January 27.

Eight Snellville residents filed suit arguing that the City Council acted unlawfully when it amended its liquor laws by a council vote rather than public referendum.

Seven restaurants already have obtained beer and wine licenses, and they began pouring two Sundays ago. The judge’s order won’t stop alcohol sales at those restaurants.

That in itself is a victory for the city, Mayor Jerry Oberholtzer said.

“We won the first round,” Oberholtzer said. “We’re still serving.”

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Fort Oglethorpe Annexes 60 Acres For Secretive “Project Hilltop”

Fort Oglethorpe recently annexed 60 acres near the junction of Scruggs Road, Interstate 75 and Cloud Springs Road in Catoosa County for a secretive project code-named “Project Hilltop”.  Fort Oglethorpe rezoned the newly annexed property from residential to commercial to allow for the development of restaurants and shopping complexes.

Randall Peters, chairman of the Catoosa Development Authority, declined to reveal specifics of the project, say-ing the company that the county is working with has requested “strict confidentiality” until a formal announcement can be made.

Peters could not reveal what type of company the county is working with on the project.

He said the announcement concerning what the project will consist of could be made as early as January.

Gov. Perdue Suggests Interbasin Transfers

In a recent speech to Augusta community leaders, Governor Sonny Perdue suggested interbasin transfers should be an option to meet water demands.  Interbasin transfers – millions of gallons of water drawn from one river basin and transported to another – are prohibited by state law and were ruled out by the Governor’s own Water Contingency Task Force as expensive and impractical.

“Obviously I make people nervous there because we’ve got this culture of this inviolate theory of no interbasin transfers,” [Gov. Perdue] said. “I just want us to look at it from a Georgia perspective — all Georgians. Some out there want to talk about Atlanta’s problems. As I said, do they affect us all over Georgia? Absolutely they do.”

“We can’t look at them (natural resources) in a selfish possessive way just like we don’t try to make one area sacrifice at the expense of others” when it comes to government agencies and operations like social services, said Perdue. “Some have more than they need and others have less than they need. If we have more than we need somewhere, we may have to look at doing (the transfers). I don’t think any of us — no Georgian — can sit back and think of an issue as fundamental as drinking water for Georgia families as someone else’s problem.”

U.S. House of Representatives Delays Expansion Of Clean Water Act

Rep. James L. Oberstar (D-Minnesota) shelved for 2009 legislation expanding the Clean Water Act to allow the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers to protect all of the nation’s waterways.  The expansion would allow government regulation of 20 million acres of the nation’s so-called isolated wetlands and the 59 percent of the nation’s streams that do not flow year-round.  Currently, these two types of water are largely exempt from federal oversight.

Rep. Oberstar intends to introduce the legislation again in January, 2010.

This proposed expansion of the Clean Water Act would substantially alter use, development and occupancy of property throughout Georgia.

h/t Laurel David.

Sandy Springs Conditionally Approves Rezoning For Church Of Scientology

Sandy Springs Mayor Eva Galambos cast the tie-breaking vote approving rezoning of Church of Scientology’s property at 5395 Roswell Road, but at 12,000 square feet less than the church wanted.

The rezoning allows the church use of 32,053 existing square feet in the former realty office at the corner of Glenridge Drive, but was not what the church wanted.  The church wanted to convert a 43,916 square feet underground, 30-car parking lot for its sanctuary.  Neighbors and city staff opposed enclosure of the underground parking lot on the basis that the church could not provide the requisite number of parking spaces for the larger space.

“The 32,000-square foot limit wouldn’t work for the church and the rights they have for religious exercises,” church attorney Woody Galloway said during his rebuttal of opposition speakers. “It would hamper them to the point they couldn’t use the site. 32,000 square feet is not at all acceptable.”

The applicant has a “great need” for space, Galloway said, a characteristic of Scientology which was at the heart of the debate.

On the one hand, the owner is a religious entity, and other churches in Sandy Springs have lower parking ratios.

“You cannot discriminate on the basis of religion. It’s what this country was founded on,” Galloway said.

However, city Department of Community Development staff determined the way the space is used is more like an office building or a community college and calculated its parking needs accordingly.

“The applicant said it is a non-traditional church with a main focus on smaller meeting rooms,” said opposition attorney Brian Daughdrill of northwest Atlanta law firm Roberts and Daughdrill. “It was appropriate for staff to analyze it as they did.”

Mosque Sues Lilburn

The Muslim congregation of Dar-E-Abbas will sue Lilburn for violations of  the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act and other provisions of the state and federal constitutions arising out of the Lilburn City Council denied a rezoning request by Dar-E-Abbas for a 20,000-square-foot mosque, cemetery and gymnasium on about 8 acres at U.S. 29 and Hood Road.

“We think the city clearly discriminated against these people, particularly in light of the fact they’ve worshipped on this land 12 to 13 years,” [Doug Dillard, attorney for the congregation of Dar-E-Abbas] said Wednesday.

Roswell Limits Backyard Chickens

In a surprise move, the Roswell City Council voted 6 to 2 to ban all roosters and restrict the number of backyard chickens based upon lot size. 

Under the new ordinance, no chickens are allowed on residential lots of 1/3 acre or less. Homeowners with 1/3 to 1 acre can keep six chickens.  Homeowners with more than 1 acre can have 12 birds per acre, up to a maximum of 36. Chickens can also be kept at schools. Chicken enclosures must be set back at least 50 feet from neighboring property lines.  The ordinance does not regulate lots larger than 2 acres.

Chicken keepers seemed surprised by last minute changes.

Under the most recent version on the table, residents could have kept up to 25 birds in some sort of enclosure at single-family homes, no matter what the lot size. People already keeping more than 25 chickens could have obtained a permit for up to 15 more birds. That version was based largely on Atlanta’s law.

Andrew Wordes, who had led the charge to loosen up the city’s backyard chicken law, seemed stunned after the meeting. He said he has about 150 birds, some miniature sized, and didn’t know the proposed ordinance had changed.

“I’ve got .97 acre, so legally I’m allowed six chickens,” Wordes said. “I don’t see how we can have murders happening near city hall and we’re concerned about chickens.”