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Clarkston approves, then rescinds ordinance allowing convenience stores to operate 24-hours a day

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Clarkston approves, then rescinds ordinance allowing convenience stores to operate 24-hours a day

Clarkston City Hall. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Clarkston, GA — At its Feb. 7 meeting, a divided Clarkston City Council approved an ordinance allowing convenience stores to operate 24-hours a day if they install surveillance cameras.

Moments later, the Clarkston City Council unanimously rescinded that same ordinance after the council member who introduced it, YT Bell, made the motion. Now the ordinance will be revisited at a future work session to resolve some of the confusing issues that arose during Tuesday’s meeting.

Mayor Beverly Burks, who initially cast the tie-breaking vote to approve the ordinance before it was rescinded, told Decaturish after the meeting that it’s important to get it right.

“At the end of the day …. we have enough time to address those issues and make sure we have a really tight document,” Burks said. 

Bell has been pushing for this ordinance since March 2022. She intends to make it easier for people who work odd hours to access things that convenience stores sell. But while pushing for that ordinance last year, she revealed that the city hasn’t been enforcing an ordinance already on its books that requires convenience stores to be closed between midnight and 6 a.m.

Previously, many of the stores had been open 24 hours, and the owners. When the city began enforcing its ordinance, the convenience store owners experienced more burglaries due to the stores being closed for six hours a night, Burks said.

“We had to enforce the existing ordinance,” Burks said. 

That’s the way things will remain until the council can work through its issues with the passed-and-then-rescinded convenience store ordinance discussed on Tuesday.

As Bell was explaining the ordinance during the Feb. 7 meeting, it became clear that council members were initially given the wrong version of the ordinance in their agenda packets. One version was only specific to stores with gasoline, while another version applied to all convenience stores, not just ones that sold gasoline.

The idea of limiting the ordinance to businesses that sell gasoline gave some councilmembers pause. They indicated they wanted more time to consider the most up-to-date version of the ordinance.

City Attorney Stephen Quinn was under the impression it applied to all convenience stores, not just ones that sell gasoline.

“I’m confused myself because I thought the intent that any convenience store would be included, and that’s how I drew it up,” Quinn said.

Quinn said that the changes between the two versions were minor enough that he felt the council would meet the legal standard for approval if it wanted to move forward.

“But if council were uncomfortable proceeding, I understand,” Quinn said. 

The council forged ahead, voting 3-3 to approve, with Mayor Burks breaking the tie “reluctantly.”

And that seemed to be that, until Quinn interrupted the council as Burks was reading the items on the council’s consent agenda.

“I regret I did not notice this,” Quinn said. “In the ordinance, it has a blank for the effective date … I left that blank based on my conversations with Councilmember Bell when we didn’t know whether it would come up for a vote. I guess it never moved forward in terms of establishing an effective date.”

Quinn recommended Bell rescind her original motion until that issue could be addressed.

Bell did so, but she had some sharp words for her colleagues on the council.

“I don’t have a problem with [tabling it]. I want to get this right,” Bell said. “My problem is … most of you waited until tonight’s council meeting to give me input on something I have worked on for a year.”

Bell said there were multiple opportunities to address the issues with the ordinance before Tuesday’s meeting, and she said she was “disappointed” that hadn’t been done. She said the council was wasting the public’s time.

Councilmember Awet Eyasu didn’t see it that way.

“This is why we have council meetings,” Eyasu said. “Bringing out our concerns does not waste anyone’s time or endanger anyone’s safety. As councilmembers, we are entitled to discuss agenda items… Sometimes it’s in our favor. Sometimes it’s not in our favor. That’s how it works.”

Councilmember Susan Hood said she understood Bell’s frustration, but said it was important for the council to work through these issues.

“I simply can’t go forward with something so nebulous that seems to bring unintended consequences,” Hood said.

In other business, the Clarkston City Council:

— Authorized the renewal of the City Services Agreement with the Clarkston Community Center.

— Hired Perkins+Will, Inc. to conduct the Clarkston Greenway Feasibility Study.

— Hired Construction 57 to repair a sidewalk on Church Street and Lovejoy Street

— Appointed the DeKalb County Board of Registrations and Elections to conduct the City of Clarkston 2023 General Municipal Election.

— Allocated $82,800 in American Rescue Plan Act funds for the Amani Women Center Workforce Development Pilot Program.

— Approved a request from CDF Action for $10,000 for an Early Learning Task Force.

— Purchased 3520 Montreal Creek Court, a 2 acre property, for $70,000. The city plans to build a park on the property.

“We’re trying to make sure we have more parks accessible to the other side of the tracks, closer to a lot of our population,” Mayor Burks said. “In that area, we have three or four apartment complexes and there isn’t a park close to them.”

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