City Council Nearly Drafts New Alcohol-Related Ordinance for Central Business District

City Council, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Ellijay City Council Nearly Drafted an Ordinance to Expand the Area Within the Central Business District Exempted from Distance Requirements for On-Premise Alcohol Licenses during their meeting on Monday, July 15, 2019.

State law prohibits the sale of distilled spirits in or within 100 yards of any church building or within 200 yards of any school building, education building, school grounds, or college campus; Any wine or malt beverages within 100 yards of any school building, school ground, or college campus.

O.C.G.A. 3-3-21-B-3 gives local governing authorities ability to reduce this distance. This is what has been asked of the City Council.

The agenda question regarding this item was as follows: “Shall an Ordinance be Prepared For The Purpose of Expanding the Area Within the Central Business District Exempted From Distance Requirements From Church Structures, School Structures and School Grounds For On Premise Consumption Licenses For Beer, Wine and Distilled Spirits.”

The current Pastor of First Baptist Church was the first to address the council on the matter, stating “We’re greatly affected by the ordinances that we have. We would encourage you to keep the ordinance that we have in place. We have morning and evening activities at our church, we have a full children’s daycare program that runs year-round, and we just feel like there needs to be a buffer with our church and with the sale of alcohol. There are plenty of commercial properties in our city where business people can sell alcohol and we feel like if they choose to do that they need to find a location that is out of that buffer zone that the state law permits. We appreciate your consideration in lieu of 500 people being here tonight, I mentioned it very briefly yesterday, I have about 300 signatures that I could share with you, I could come up with probably 800 with the people that have shared with me if you all need to know our feeling about that issue.”

Mike Lancaster – “I don’t see how you can have establishments that are in the existing boundaries that can sell alcohol and distiled spirits and deny the Coffee Shop the same opportunity. It’s almost like government picking winners and losers.”

JoAnn of the Ellijay Coffee House, one of the business’ seeking the right to serve alcohol in their store, was the second to address the council stating “So thank you for clarifying that, that is is up to you guys to make that change, and certainly appreciate the churches opinion on that matter. I actually got out with a bit of a walking stick yesterday so I could get my head around the current law. 28 Main, which is where it goes to, there door, to there door, is 31 yards, just so you know. So, this buffer, I think the distance is arbitrary. […]We happen to be on the other side of the church. When I was here five years ago, three months, we played with this, maybe even four months. And then, you all said it just needed to be tabled, it just wasn’t a good time. Five years, you’ve given alot of licenses out. We can only conclude on our end it feels a bit discriminatory to us. I feel that it’s a bit capricious of the council to just be… I’m not even sure what’s going on, I don’t even know why we can’t get one, when everyone else seems to be able to get one. I don’t think there’s a sound basis for it, I think it feels very prejudicial to us. That’s all I can say. I hope you reconsider it. I think that, when we bought our building, for everyone to think we would know that, I’m not sure how you think we would know we couldn’t get one when I could have a drink two blocks up the street from our building, so, that to me is just a ridiculous statement that comes up that you should’ve known better well we didn’t, okay? And at the end of the day I don’t really understand why other people have better opportunities than we do and I just think the entire central business district, including the theater, needs to have the right that everyone on River Street at the square does. And I hope you’ll take this really seriously, I think we’ve waited long enough and I think we’ve proven, Rick and I as a business, that we have contributed to this town in every way we can. We love this town, we have incredible guests and I’m sorry the church feels that way, but that’s a church issue, and I’m not asking the church to believe in anything, I just feel like you need to look beyond that.”

Council Member Katie Lancey made a motion to vote on this measure, stating that “I was here when the City of Ellijay was completely dry. I was here when we had the first pouring alcohol ordinance, and we lost by nine votes. I was here for the second when it passed. And I was here, last Saturday night, walking around, enjoying downtown Ellijay. As a member of the City Council, I feel that we are charged and it is our responsibility to facilitate the success of our business’ downtown. This is not about the Coffee House, this is about all of Main Street. So I would like to make a motion, that we direct our City Attorney, to prepare and ordinance for the purpose of expanding the area within the Central Business District exempted from the distance requirements from churches, schools, for the on-premise consumption”, which was met with applause from the crowd.

With no other board members seconding, however, the motion has been laid to rest for the time being.

Any future developments regarding ordinances such as these will be reported on as they become known, so be sure to stay tuned!

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City Council Meeting On September 18

News

ELLIJAY, GA – Monday, September 18, the City Council met to briefly discuss Special Events Ordinance and the Alcoholic Beverage Amendment.

The Special Events ordinance was modified per committee recommendations. Due to these changes it was recommended that a first reading be held at this meeting and a vote to adopt be postponed until the October meeting. This ordinance requires that individual groups, organizations, and people to acquire a permit to use public property and roads. This involves parades, assemblies, demonstrations, protest, road closings and other organized activities.

A second ordinance was presented for a first reading to recommendations of the Alcohol Committee which will remove the fees for Alcohol Licenses from the current ordinance. Instead, it will allow them to be fixed from time to time by the city via resolution.

Citizens and council members were asked if they had any question on either topic and no one had any. Citizens are encouraged to voice their opinions at the next meeting on Monday, October 16, 2017.

New Member Approved for DDA

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Brewery Ordinance in Ellijay

News

Approved in their April Meeting, the Ellijay City Council is moving forward with a new ordinance concerning breweries.

The new ordinance actually allows both breweries, defined as a manufacturer of malt beverages, and brew pubs, defined as a restaurant who manufactures and sells malt beverages on site in draft form.

While the ordinance does add normal distances from schools and churches, it also states that,

“All places of business that front River Street or the Ellijay City Square or are on North Church Street, including but not beyond 29 North Church Street, or North Main Street including, but not beyond 28 North Main and are located within the central business district shall be exempt from the restrictions relating to distance from church structures, school structures and school grounds…”

You can also read the ordinance in entirety below:

Ellijay Brewery Ordinance Pg1 Ellijay Brewery Ordinance Pg2 Ellijay Brewery Ordinance Pg3 Ellijay Brewery Ordinance Pg4

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Zoning Issues in Ellijay’s City Council

News

The majority of citizen’s and council’s input revolved around two issues that faced the Council at Monday nights meeting, November 21.

A Public Hearing was held before the regular meeting to hear citizens speaking for or against a Rezoning of Lot 13 on Legion Road to Commercial. The owner, David Rachlin, stood to speak about his plans for the lot stating he was wanting to establish an RV Resort for visitors to the area.

His Resort idea included 10 RV’s that he would rent to visitors and establish on the premises, so no visitors would need bring theirs. While he expects mostly weekenders and short time stays, the owner also spoke of adding other facilities to accommodate the Resort including a Sauna, Jacuzzi, Game Room, and even a possible Basketball Court.

According to Rachlin, the business has already been tested in a separate area and has been receiving five star reviews on popular sites such as Yelp! The business would be set to open from April 15 to November 1 each year.

However, several neighbors to the proposed lot appeared before the council to oppose the rezoning request such as Gary Blasky, a resident of the nearby Timberwalk Estates, who raised questions about the size of the lot, its boundaries, and the close proximity to his neighborhood.

Another resident of Timberwalk raised her security concerns as well stating the proximity would allow campers in the RV Resort to be only a short walk from residents backyards and their children.

Jim Mahoney, a nearby resident who stated he lived within 200 feet of the lot, opposed the zoning request on concerns about increased noise and traffic on the road in addition to his proximity.

In fact, roughly 10 different people stood in the public hearing to voice their concerns in addition to a report of numerous calls, a 15-signature petition, and a letter from the Environmental Health Department concerned about the size of the lot in relation to the stated plans for a commercial business.

Ultimately, the overwhelming opposition before the City Council led to a 5-0 vote to deny the request.

Other requests before the council involved new and renewed alcohol licenses including, Holts Mini Mart for an Off Premise Consumption Beer and Wine License, Ellijay Convenience for an Off Premise Beer License, Seth’s on Boardwalk for an On Premise Beer and Wine License, American Legion for an On Premise Consumption Renewal, Cajun Depot for an On Premise Beer and Wine Renewal, River Street Tavern for an On Premise Beer, Wine, and Distilled Spirits Renewal, and Lee’s on River Street for an On Premise Beer, Wine, and Spirits Renewal.

All of these licenses received approvals, but those approvals came contingent upon background checks for each as the City has had trouble receiving the checks due to a change in process. According to City Clerk Sharon Nelson, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation recently informed the Council non-criminal checks now have to be done through a third party.

One other subject on alcohol came through the Council’s meeting as they are once again considering an ordinance to allow alcohol on the Downtown Boardwalk. This time, the ordinance would allow for a specific section of the Boardwalk to be an allowable zone for those drinking at the local restaurant.

Ellijay City Chief of Police Edward Lacey was asked his opinion on the possibility in the meeting. He replied as long as clear signs marked the area, it would be enforceable by officers.

The discussion came up to gauge the council’s interest before spending money on the City Attorney to draw up another legal wording document for the council. The First Reader on this specific “Zone of the Boardwalk” will appear before the Council in December’s Meeting.

Two final actions taken by the council at Monday’s meeting appointed new members to two boards.

The Council returned Lex Rainey to the Gilmer County Board of Health for a 6 year appointment. Rainey was already on the Board, but was nearing the end of his term. City Mayor Al Hoyle told the Council that the Board of Health requested the City re-appoint Rainey due to his active roles and support he brought to them.

Finally, the City Council also filled a vacancy on the Downtown Development Authority with Judy Wilson. Mayor Hoyle informed the Council Wilson had already been notified and indicated she would be willing to serve on the DDA.

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Ellijay City Council passes Alcohol Ordinance -Tables Sidewalk Cafe Ordinance

News

Ellijay City Council held its workshop, public hearing, and regular meeting Monday night, April 18th.  The room was full and there was a good deal of time for questions and comments to the Council.

Once citizen input time was closed the meeting moved along quickly.  A zoning change at 7661 Hwy 515 North, (Sturgeons Amphitheater) was granted for 2 acres to be rezoned Residential from Commercial.  A paving bid decision was made.  The Council moved and passed the Alcohol Ordinance however the Sidewalk Cafe Ordinance was tabled for further review by the Council.  There was a first reading for a Technology Surcharge Ordinance and a decision made on their bank account.

Mayor Hoyle repeatedly expressed to the crowded room to come and sit down with him at any time, stating he has an “open door policy” and will gladly meet with anyone who has questions or concerns.  See full video below of workshop and meeting:

Ellijay City Council Workshop & Meeting Video

Ellijay City Council Workshop & Meeting April 18th 2016 – Video

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Ellijay City Council Meeting March 21st 2016 Video

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