Remote public hearing room to be set up for city commission

A video monitor can be seen inside the Sam King Room at Rome City Hall on Friday. City staff will have a remote web camera and laptop set up in the room for the public hearing portion of Monday’s City Commission meeting.

A suggestion by a citizen-led board to try and help downtown Rome establishments survive during the current economic downturn is reviving a nearly 3-year-old debate.

The Alcohol Control Commission is recommending the City Commission pass an ordinance to temporarily allow the public consumption of alcohol within the downtown district.

The board is set to review the ordinance, which was initially presented and voted down in 2017 after considerable public input, during its regular meeting Monday, which begins at 6:30 p.m.

The meeting will be virtual with commissioners and guests connected through web-based conferencing and streamed on Facebook Live.

A letter from City Clerk Joe Smith said the ACC sees the move as a way to bring more business to pouring establishments downtown which are able to sell alcohol at this time as well as allow the public to enjoy downtown while adhering to social distancing guidelines.

The ordinance will be on first reading Monday with the possibility of a second reading and vote at the board’s meeting on June 8. It is similar to practices other Georgia cities have that allow public consumption of alcohol in a specified area under strict rules.

The downtown district as described in the previous draft ordinance covers the area of Broad Street from East Sixth Avenue to East First Avenue, Bridgepoint Plaza, across the Oostanaula River to West Third Street and down to North Fifth Avenue. Other points inside the district include the Town Green, the Forum River Center, and the Chief John Ross Memorial Bridge.

The ordinance includes restrictions such as having the alcohol in a Downtown Development Authority-approved plastic cup no bigger than 16 ounces, and ending public consumption at 11 p.m. each day.

City Manager Sammy Rich said the ACC voted by email to send the ordinance to the commission with a recommendation that it be passed. Specific meetings of city and county committees have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and calls to stay away from large gatherings.

Smith states in the letter to the commission that there is no recommended end given for the ordinance, with the changes to the economic environment in the last 90 days and not knowing when the current business climate will begin to recover.

“If there is support for this concept, one option would be leave the provision in place until such time as Commission action is taken to end it,” Smith writes.

The commission is also scheduled to vote on six items unanimously recommended by the Rome-Floyd Planning Commission as part of the public hearing portion of the meeting.

Among them are a request for a special use permit to allow the old Holiday Inn Skytop property to convert the hotel rooms into apartments. There are also rezonings for lots on Pollock Street in South Rome and East Third Street in the Between the Rivers historic district to accommodate the construction of new multi-family residences.

Rich said the Sam King Room in City Hall will be set up to allow those wanting to speak to be patched into the virtual meeting.

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