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Clarkston plans once again to allow 24-hour convenience stores

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Clarkston plans once again to allow 24-hour convenience stores

Clarkston City Hall. Photo by Dean Hesse.

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Clarkston, GA  — During its March 28 work session, The Clarkston City Council discussed an ordinance to allow convenience stores with video surveillance systems to acquire a permit to stay open during those hours.

The ordinance will be voted on at the next regular city council meeting on April 4.

Convenience stores that have a video surveillance system will be able to apply for a permit to stay open 24 hours. That permit may be withdrawn if the business is found to violate city ordinances or other laws.

At its February 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 Moments later, the Clarkston City Council unanimously rescinded that same ordinance after the council member who introduced it, YT Bell, made the motion. The matter was moved to Tuesday’s work session.

The council is debating whether to require convenience stores to close between midnight and 6 a.m.

Councilmember Awet Eyasu said during the Tuesday’s work session that he wants specific language about how many violations of noise and other ordinances will result in the permit being withdrawn. After discussion, the council settled on three convictions within one year.

Eyasu also expressed concern about an additional burden on the police department.

Both Vice Mayor Debra Johnson and Councilmember Bell said that the Clarkston police chief had said that there were no problems when the convenience stores were open all night, and that since they have been closed, there have been several burglaries.

Police Chief Christine Hudson confirmed those statements and also said that there had been no noise complaints directly associated with the convenience stores when they were open.

Eyasu suggested a fee associated with the permit, and a discussion ensued. City Attorney Stephen Quinn stated that other permits in the city code have administrative fees associated with them, and the amount is generally set by the city manager.

Resident Amy Medford said that her main concern was violation of alcohol sales laws, but that if the city hires a code enforcement officer, then that will address her concerns.

Greg Pridgeon, representing the Atlanta Retailers Association, urged the council to pass the ordinance, saying that after being forced to close between midnight and 6 am, the businesses affected have suffered more than $100,000 in damages. 

Clarkston previously adopted temporary moratoriums on development of mini-warehouses and self-storage facilities, automobile service centers and automobile service stations, and small box variety stores. Those moratoriums expired in February, and the council discussed creating new ones for a six-month period.

Bell stated that the moratoriums were created to pause approvals during the city’s zoning ordinance rewrite, and that an extension is necessary since the rewrite is still in process. 

Eyasu said that he felt that the moratoriums are unnecessary and dissuade businesses from starting in Clarkston.

The city council also discussed using ARPA funds for government services to hire a code compliance officer for two years, in the amount of $150,000.

City Manager Shawanna Qawiy said that code violations have increased, and that to address complaints, hiring a code compliance officer has become necessary. In response to a question from Eyasu, Qawiy said that the requested funds were to fund a two-year contract with a consultant and after two years the city could consider hiring someone directly as staff. 

Additionally, the city council discussed agreeing to receive a lease supplement from the Georgia Municipal Association Direct Leasing Program in the amount of $138,230. The funds will be used to pay for hybrid trucks that the city purchased in February. 

In related news, the council discussed declaring a 2004 Ford F-150 which belongs to the Public Works Department to be surplus so that it can be auctioned off.

Bell asked why the truck needed to be replaced.

Public Works Director Rodney Beck responded, “For lack of a professional term, it’s wore out.”

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