While committed to maintaining their city's quaint charm, Chickamauga's elected officials strive to expand the tax base and modernize their community.

Toward that end the city is considering a change to its alcoholic beverage ordinance that would permit the sale of liquor by the drink in the throughout municipality — not just alongside U.S. Highway 27.

"The majority of those contacted see no problem with the sale of liquor by the drink in the historic district," said Harry Kythas of the city's beverage board.

The city council was told that Ellijay has seen no problems, only growth, since a similar law was enacted in that city. It was noted that Ellijay's ordinance requires at least 50 percent of a business' revenue come from food sales, which is less restrictive that the 65 percent required in Chickamauga.

This change in local law is seen as a tool in attracting up-scale restaurants to the historic district since most chain restaurants require traffic counts that could only be met on the city's only highway.

Not only would the current law be altered, it was suggested that the ordinance be totally rewritten so that alcoholic beverage sales would be allowed citywide and then only with the express consent of the council.

Following Kythas' report regarding beverage sales, Jim Staub presented an update on the possibility of establishing a local, as opposed to a national, designation of downtown as an historic district.

Staub stated such a designation would provide guidelines that would preserve the downtown's aesthetic, that it would preserve and protect the historic buildings and sites within a defined area.

The plan, if adopted, would only apply to street-facing facades.

"It would protect the property rights and values" of historic buildings, he said and would not infringe on residential spaces. It would also serve as a guide for renovations and new construction.

As examples of properties that show how preservation can be accomplished, Staub cited the City School offices, the Gordon Lee High School replacement that is underway and the continued maintenance of the Gordon Lee Mansion property.

"Proposed guidelines will be flexible," he said. "This would make by statute what has been done on the honor system and informal agreements."

While the council members will consider changes to overall rules regarding the sale of alcohol and historic preservation at a future date, they granted variances to two businesses. The owners of a Hardee's restaurant being built at the intersection of U.S. Highway 27/Lee & Gordon Mill Road intersection asked to place sign along the highway that is larger than allowed by code, and the Domino's Pizza requested permission to install an awning at its downtown location. Both requests were granted.

Mike O'Neal is assistant editor for the Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga. He can be reached at the Messenger office at 706-638-1859 and by email at moneal@npco.com.