Calhoun City Council

Calhoun City Council members George Crowley (from left), Ray Denmon, James F. Palmer, Al Edwards and Jackie Palazzolo. / Contributed

The Calhoun City Council approved changes to two ordinances earlier this week, paving the way for an expansion of the areas where alcohol can be consumed during special events as well as setting in place additional sanctions to property owners concerning the abatement of nuisances.

The changes were approved by the council following public hearings. They were first brought before the council at its second meeting last month.

The alcohol ordinance, which the Downtown Development Authority requested be amended, now allow for the creation of a “controlled festival zone” on Court Street, from Wall Street to King Street, and Park Avenue, from Oothcalooga Street to Harlen Street. Previously, alcohol at special events with food service could only be served and consumed at BB&T Park, the Depot parking lot, the city parking between Park Avenue and railroad tracks and city “green space” on South Wall Street across from City Hall.

The changes also call for the removal of more restrictive barriers around the alcohol service area. In their place will be signs indicating where alcohol must be kept within.

In addition, there must be uses of wristbands to indicate individuals whose legal age to drink has been verified — there must be a designated space where identity and age is verified. The mayor and city council have the authority to determine a charge for receiving a wristband.

“This is a redraft to include additional sanctions as an incentive to get individuals to take a private path when the city may have to take litigation action”

The ordinance concerning the abatement of nuisances now includes language calling for additional sanctions to property owners when the city must process a nuisance order and demolish a structure.

“More importantly to offer a sanction to the individual who is not taking care of the property on their own to try and do it on their own so we don’t have to go out and contract and go out to do the demolition on their own,” said City Attorney George Govignon. “So this is an additional assessment to reimburse the city for having to file the action.”

The redrafted ordinance now states that if the city is tasked with processing the abatement action, then the property owner will have reimburse the city for the cost of demolition, all court costs, all attorney fees, any appraisal fees and “all other costs necessarily associated with the abatement action, including restoration to grade of the real property after demolition.” It also would require reimbursement of “any administrative costs incurred by the tax commissioner.”

To process a nuisance abatement, Govignon estimated the cost to the city ranges from $5,000 to $10,000 depending on the structure and fees associated with processing the nuisance order. In publication fees alone for about six nuisance orders, as the city recently completed prior to the ordinance change, the cost could reach $1,000, he added.

“There is much attached to it than filing a petition,” Govignon said of the cost of abatement actions.

Govignon explained that property owners requesting the city to perform the abatement action would be sent a letter itemizing the pre-assessed costs, which will be based on a formula established by the city’s billing department.

“So these would be costs that would be assessed if we had to go forward,” Govignon said. “The individual who is subject to abate the nuisance privately (would be warned) this would be the additional cost.”

Also at Monday’s meeting, the council approved an annexation and zoning request of R-1B at 112 Cherry St.

Council members also approved the city’s Americans with Disabilities Act Transition Plan, which now moves on to the Georgia Department of Transportation for review. The plan is an annual requirement for the city, which must review public facilities’ compliance with ADA policies and procedures, along with the compliance of city streets, sidewalks and parking areas.