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Avondale Estates new police chief sworn in during city commission meeting

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Avondale Estates new police chief sworn in during city commission meeting

Avondale Estates Municipal Court Judge Stephen Nicolas swears in Police Chief Harry Hess on April 27. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

Avondale Estates, GA — The Avondale Estates City Commission officially welcomed Police Chief Harry Hess to the city as he was sworn in during the work session on April 27.

Hess comes to Avondale from Clarkston where he was the assistant police chief. His first day in Avondale was April 26.

During the swearing in ceremony, Hess thanked his family and colleagues from the cities of Clarkston and Morrow. Hess is looking forward to serving the community and his officers as well, he said.

“I am excited to join the City of Avondale Estates Police Department and take what I have learned from numerous mentors to grow the police department through the best practices of modern policing,” Hess previously said. “I believe, in time, the police department will be an example for other small agencies through community relations and fair and impartial policing.”

The city began searching for its next police chief following the retirement of former Police Chief Lynn Thomas and the resignation of the department’s accreditation manager, Lt. Duanne Thompson. Thomas and Thompson left the department following a failed accreditation attempt through the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police.

“This has been a long process, and we couldn’t be happier,” Mayor Jonathan Elmore said, adding that the city wishes Hess the best in his service to Avondale.

“To have the support you have says a lot about you as a person,” Mayor Pro Tem Brian Fisher added. “I can’t wait to start working with you, and if there’s anything this board can do to support your efforts, we’d be glad to do it.”

The city is also working on drafting requests for proposals to seek a third-party review of the police department’s policies and procedures, and a review of the department for racial bias. The Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police had advised the city to wait until a new police chief is hired before releasing the RFPs, so the new police chief can participate in the process.

The city commission committed to hiring a third-party consultant to review the department in June 2020 and interviewed two candidates in September 2020.

City Manager Patrick Bryant said at the April 13 meeting that the city has discussed the review with Hess and “he is ready to embark on that process and is excited for the opportunity to participate with any third party who might review the police department in order to make any corrections that might be necessary at the forefront of his tenure.”

“He is definitely on board,” Bryant previously said. “I can also say that he is a huge proponent of community policing and has various ideas about ways to connect with and engage not only our residents, but adjacent communities, business owners and the like.”

In other business, the city commission will hold a public hearing at its next meeting to hear from three residents who have applied for a conditional use permit to operate a bed and breakfast on their properties. The applications were submitted following some discussions about short-term rentals — like Airbnb and Vrbo — and what is allowed in the city.

The Avondale Estates City Commission updated its zoning code in 2021. Before the zoning code rewrite, residents were not allowed to rent any portion of their property for any length of time. Under the new zoning code, short-term rentals are restricted in the following ways:

– Short-term rentals that are less than 30 days for an accessory dwelling unit are prohibited.

– Short-term whole house rentals are also not allowed.

– But with a conditional use permit and a business license, property owners who use their home as their primary residence, are on the premise and serve a meal can rent out space within that home for shorter periods of time and operate as a bed and breakfast.

To qualify for the conditional use permit and business license, the homeowner would have to be on site to rent out their space.

There is one distinction in the zoning code when it comes to renting accessory dwelling units. If an accessory dwelling unit does not have a separate kitchen facility, then it can be considered a candidate for a short-term rental. But if an ADU has a separate kitchen facility, it can be rented out for 30 days or more, but not less than 30 days.

The code does not define what constitutes a kitchen, but city staff found a definition. The city has adopted the International Building Code into its zoning code.

“It’s a three-part definition — sink, refrigerator and stove,” City Attorney Stephen Quinn said. “Then they have a separate definition for kitchenette, which is sink, refrigerator and optionally a microwave or hot plate.”

The other detail is that there’s a 240 volt electrical outlet that’s used with a stove, but not a microwave or hotplate, Quinn added.

The Avondale Estates City Commission will meet on Wednesday, May 11, at 5:30 p.m. at Avondale City Hall, 21 N. Avondale Plaza.

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