BLUE RIDGE, Ga – Fannin County Commissioners opted for a 30-day moratorium on special use permits for alcohol licenses while they gather more information and the ordinance is rewritten.
When Fannin County added the alcohol permit ordinance to its official code, commissioners did not include a special use provision, but the application for a special use permit is available to the public.
The first special permit didn’t cause any issues with the county, and the sheriff’s office gave the go-ahead for the second event requesting a special use permit.
Post One Johnny Scearce asked, “Is there any liability that can fall back on the county?” County Attorney Lynn Doss stated the county wouldn’t be liable for these events.
Special event permits require hired security to be always on the scene. Doss added she believed the requirement for special events is one off-duty officer for every 200 to 300 people.
More venues are becoming available throughout the county and a special use permit might benefit their businesses. However, parameters need to be set in place to prevent everyone from applying for a special use beer and wine permit.
County Attorney Lynn Doss doesn’t know where the application came from, she didn’t create it, nor knows how it became available to the public.
“It’s not that it’s a bad idea. It might be a great idea. It’s just that literally in our ordinance there’s no provision for it. There’s no regulation of it. If the commission feels okay with just continuing on and letting individuals make applications until we can get the ordinance rewritten, which we’re in the process of doing, that’s fine. Another idea is just to say there is a moratorium there will be no special use permits issued until the ordinance is rewritten,” Doss explained.
Since beer and wine came into the county, two special use permits have been approved for use.
Liquor sales aren’t allowed within the county, but the city can sell liquor, beer, and wine. Liquor requires a vote, and when alcohol was placed on the ballot previously, it failed. The commissioners at the time found a way around the citizen’s opinion and brought just beer and wine into the county.
“I just think when it comes to alcohol you’ve got to have things in place that’s going to cover you. There is a lot of liability,” Scearce remarked. “Our responsibility here is to make sure we’re looking at the best interest of the people.”
Special use permits would only be for beer and wine.
Plus, if the county grants a license, the Georgia Department of Revenue still must approve a license for a business going forward.
“Willow Falls can get a permit that’s not a special event permit that would be good for a year,” Doss explained, “It has to renew every year.”
The first issuance of an alcohol license is $10,000 and the renewal is $150. It’s also tied to food sales. The markers serve as a buffer to keep people out of the market.
Chairman Jamie Hensley posed a hypothetical for a person who received their alcohol license, “I start going to different venues in the county…how is that fare that I’m able to do that when say Toccoa Restaurant had to pay $10,000 to be able to sell it…If I’m the person that gets to put on that one-time event at this location and now I can go to this location and do it again because I’ve got my license.”
Doss confirmed that a situation is something that needs to be addressed in the updated ordinance. She then cited a Supreme Court Case that stated an alcohol license is a privilege is not a right. The county can put in place different stipulations depending upon the business and use purposes.
Anyone who serves alcohol in Georgia must pass a background check, which is currently reported to the state.
A facility in Georgia can only hold 24 special use permits a year. Public parks are considered county property and will never be allowed as a location for alcohol events.
Some Fannin County restaurants would prefer that the new ordinance included Sunday beer and wine sales to compete with Blue Ridge establishments.
The updated ordinances in Fannin are in process but likely won’t be finalized till the end of the year. Ordinance updates require two public hearings before final approval as well.
In 30 days, the commissioners will decide to either extend or eliminate the moratorium. During this time, they will review all existing materials and decide on the best course forward.
The City of Chatsworth braces for a budget hit, telling departments it could affect personnel. The decrease in tax revenues has departments maintaining last year’s budget numbers.
“We’re expecting a $20,000 loss,” Mayor KW Gong said. “They didn’t vote for a tax increase.”
Councilman Fred Welch said they are asking all departments to maintain last year’s budget and encouraged departments to be frugal, even if they have the money in their coiffeurs.
“We’re operating at a deficit at least until we can renegotiate our share of the sales tax later,” he said. “If our revenues don’t increase, we will have to cut personnel.”
The proposed budget
The Chatsworth City Council held the first reading for the 2021 fiscal year budget.
The proposed revenues are $5,012,797.
The following is the anticipated expenditures for each department and capital purchases and improvement.
- Administration: $435,151.13
- Building Inspection: $90,367.69
- Fire Department: $1,003,022.36
- Health and Sanitation: $142,468.84
- Parks: $15,000
- Police Department: $1,743,261.48
- Street Department: $1,091,369.75
- Zoning and Code Enforcement: $92,155.95
- Capital purchase/improvements: $400,000
Water Works budget
The Chatsworth Water Works Commission was reviewed at Monday’s meeting.
The CWWC estimated total revenues at $9,499, 150, not including net income from Operations which is expected to be $1,053,085. Total expenses for CWWC is estimated to be $8,446,065.
Alcohol sales and distribution
The Chatsworth City Council was asked to meet with Police Chief Josh Etheridge to discuss what measures, if any, they want to take on services delivering alcohol.
A little attended election on November 3 at City Hall showed 74 city residents approved Sunday sales between 12:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. while 30 opposed it.
“We have 2,500 eligible voters in the city,” Gong said. “Only 104 turned out for this.”
The polls were not held at the recreation center like the general elections but were at City Hall.
The state passed a law allowing Sunday sales but each municipality must pass their own resolution.
City Attorney, Steve Williams, told the council there was an issue they needed to talk and decide what, if any, action was needed.
“With more stores delivering groceries and alcohol, we need to look at ordinances on how to handle that. There are more issues than you realize,” he said.
The City of Chatsworth does not have a distilled spirit sales, but as more stores are offering home delivery of groceries, the city may want to consider how to handle delivered alcohol.
One thing to consider is underage purchases.
“It’s typically up to the driver to check IDs of those purchasing when they deliver,” he said. “You can control a 20-year-old going to a store to buy beer, but how do you do that if it’s delivered?”
Complicating the matter is out of county stores, like Kroger, are now delivering to Chatsworth and soon, Ingles, which is in Murray County, will deliver, too.
“Do we want to control delivery of alcohol?” he said.
He encouraged the city council to meet with Chatsworth Police Chief Josh Etheridge
In other city council news
- Approved installing a four-way stop sign at Duvall Road and Industrial Boulevard.
- Approved the first reading of a sign ordinance for large billboards.
- Approved the petition by Paul A. and Denise Parker to close a portion of Elm Street lying between the west right of way of Pemotoma Way and the east right of way of Tenth Avenue.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Attempting to set details down as they move through the three month process, the county discussed details and plans for the first reader of their change to the alcohol ordinance allowing for the sale of beer and wine at the county’s golf course.
To the best of his knowledge, Golf Course Manager Mike Brumby has previously said that Gilmer was the only one he knew that still doesn’t sell drinks in the lodge.
But that is set to change in the coming months as the commissioners spoke about signage, management, and allowances during a special called meeting before the December First Reading.
The Golf Course will likely have something inside the shop showing prices for drinks, but Chairman Charlie Paris said he did not want any advertisements of the alcohol outside the building. The ordinance, according to County Attorney David Clark, will allow them to put signage as the wish. Clark also noted that the golf course is likely to require its own license and “point of contact,” meaning someone responsible for the operation.
Paris asserted that he wanted the operation to basically allow for the sale when people ask without making any major notice or advertisements anywhere. Brumby has also started looking at other courses in their management of alcohol sales and advertisements as well, according to Post 2 Commissioner Karleen Ferguson.
Another note brought up in the meeting came as Post 1 Commissioner Hubert Parker publicly noted that the county deleted something in its changes removing requirements regarding state roads.
Clark stated, “The reason that was deleted is that there may be other facilities in the county that may qualify from the distance requirements that aren’t necessarily located on state roads. Nothing in particular at this point in time, but it’s just that that’s been a bone of contention with some of these [stores].”
Parker replied, “I’m just saying, we are opening it up… We have to recognize that. That’s all I’m saying.”
Paris noted that many places not on state roads have licenses as they were “grandfathered in.”
Parker replied, “The current policy is anti-competitive. I agree.” He said that his approach understanding the anti-competitive nature is that the county was trying to keep from being anti-competitive.
The board also discussed adding allowances for special use permits for events in area such as River Park. However, upon discussing details for an idea like a “Wine Walk” allowing local vineyards, each of the commissioners agreed that they wanted to address changes to the ordinance in steps and not add any additional ideas along with the Golf Course. As per the specific location of River Park, some debate came from who owns or leases different areas of the park. Ultimately, the board didn’t go into depth on the idea as they decided to focus on the Golf Course now and address other ideas separately.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer’s Board of Commissioners made two approvals this week for farms to, as Chairman Charlie Paris said, “try to recover as quickly as possible.”
While Paris said they are looking at several areas of the county’s economy, two of the approvals in June focused solely on farms and agriculture including the first steps of a change and easing of the ordinance for Farm Wineries and a Resolution supporting the “Right to Farm Act” in legislation.
With local farm wineries, Paris said the only way the county can really help with this is through lessening regulations. To that end, the Commissioners voted to approve moving forward with advertising to change the ordinance to allow local wineries in the unincorporated parts of the county “to serve local Georgia craft beer in their tasting rooms. They would not be allowed to sell the beer packaged and there will be no Sunday sales.”
Post Commissioner Karleen Ferguson said, “I know that the winery owners have requested this for some time and we were waiting to bring it up and to see when the right time was. I do think it is a great time to put that gesture in… I also love the fact that we are restricting it to Georgia Craft beers, so it is not any of the name brand national or international brands.”
Gary Engel spoke to the Commissioners in the work session noting that a few wineries were represented in the audience. He said that other counties in the state are already selling beers. He also noted that it would not equate to a great surge in sales, but rather it allows a service to different tastes. Engel said that sometimes a couple will come up to listen to music, one doesn’t like wine but would enjoy a cold beer. He did say that the small increase in sales could aid in the wineries business as well.
He also said they are wanting to increase and pursue the business as Gilmer is increasing in popularity with these as well. Engel said, “From a perspective of the state, with the number of wineries that are going into Gilmer County, this county will soon be the most populated county, south of Virginia, with wineries.”
Additionally, the other approval for farms came in support of a legislative Act in Georgia, the “Right to Farm” Act. Paris said that lawsuits come often against farms as people move in nearby and then sue over the smells or noise. Paris explained that through discussions with farmers, he found that these are not often won, but are often filed and can be expensive to fight against in courts.
In support of local farmers and through discussions with them, Paris said that they asked for support for this Act in protection of some of what he called “nuisance lawsuits.”
The Act increases requirements to file lawsuits against farms according to Paris, in attempt to protect them from some of these filings.
The approval came for Resolution to support the Act at the state level in efforts to help it pass.