CONYERS — A request for a conditional use permit in the Gateway Village — Urban Village zoning district to allow for a liquor store at 1081 Iris Drive was tabled by a divided Conyers City Council Wednesday night.
The zoning amendment was tabled with the consent of the applicant’s representative, Julie Paquin, after two council members, Valyncia Smith and Conniee Alsobrook, indicated they would not support it.
Scott Gaither, deputy director of the city’s Planning and Inspections Services Department, told council members that the property, the former location of Folks restaurant, meets the criteria necessary for approval of a CUP. The Planning Commission held a public hearing on the zoning amendment on Aug. 13 and recommended that the council approve the change, with conditions.
Pacquin, representing owner Al Shaheed, told the council her client is comfortable with the staff-recommended conditions, including streetscape design standards, signage requirements, installation of security lights, and an 8-foot tall solid wall or fence along the entire southern boundary and 60 feet along the western and eastern boundaries.
She said Shaheed’s intention is to renovate the existing building, which has been vacant for years, unless it becomes necessary to raze the building and redevelop the property.
Although the Planning and Inspections Department analysis found that a liquor store would have no adverse impacts on adjacent businesses, the environment, or traffic, several residents spoke in opposition to the liquor store as a use for the property.
Charmaine Moss, senior pastor at Providence Church International, said “the last thing we need is another liquor store.”
“Let’s think of some things to make it more appealing, to make it more useful, to make it more inviting,” she said.
Councilman Gerald Hinesley made a motion to approve the CUP, and Councilman Cleveland Stroud seconded the motion.
“Just because you deny one liquor store isn’t going to solve a drinking problem in Conyers,” said Stroud during discussion, noting that denial of the application could lead to litigation.
Councilwoman Smith said she had pulled police calls for the address since Jan. 1, showing a total of 318 calls.
A record of those calls showed that the majority — 252 — were property checks, with foot patrols being the next greatest number at 16. Property checks and foot patrols are officer-initiated and are not conducted in response to a 911 call.
Smith said she felt that granting a CUP for a liquor store was a “short-term move.”
However, Gaither noted that zoning decisions cannot legally be based on personal feelings or a desire to wait for “bigger and better to come along.”
The vote appeared to be headed for an impasse with Smith and Alsobrook in opposition. The council currently has four members and one vacant seat following the resignation of Blair Barksdale in July.
Smith made a substitute motion to table the CUP request, and Alsobrook seconded the motion.
Pacquin agreed, saying that the tabling would be in the interest of her client, and the motion passed.
The issue is expected to come back before the council on Sept. 16.