In a unanimous vote on Monday night, the Lula City Council approved its much talked about derelict and blighted property ordinance. The action came during the regular council meeting following a public hearing on the ordinance.
Before the public hearing, Mayor Jim Grier explained that a lot of misinformation had been passed around regarding the proposed ordinance. Grier said the city has been addressing code enforcement violations for over 10 years and previously had a code enforcement officer who worked one day per week. Last month, the city hired Doug Forrester as a full-time code enforcement officer.
The proposed ordinance is a much-needed tool to process neglected properties in structured manor under the approval and direction of state law and the municipal court judge, the mayor said.
Several people turned out to speak, some for and some against, about the proposed ordinance. Those who spoke in opposition to the ordinance are concerned with city staff being able to come onto their property unannounced. However, the approved ordinance does not take away any rights of a property owner, the ordinance assures the property owner a process for resolution and no one from the city is going to enter a house or home without the consent of the owner or the occupant unless a judge has issued a warrant to inspect the interior of the property with just cause through the court process as allowed by state law.
Several residents, from both inside and outside the city limits, spoke in favor of the ordinance, saying it is needed in an effort to help the community clean up dilapidated homes and properties. Several residents said there is a need and they wanted to see the city follow through with enforcement of the ordinance.
Darrell Womack said while a home next door to him was vacant someone broke in the garage door and mattresses were found inside the garage to indicate that someone had been staying inside the residence.
Amy Cornett stated she and her husband purchased a home in Lula that had been vacant for around two years and they found both drugs and drug paraphernalia on the property. She said even after they had moved onto the property they have had people coming onto their property because people were used to the property being vacant.
Joe Thomas, Athens St., who spoke against the ordinance at a previous meeting, said he is in favor of the ordinance, “but the process sucks.”
In other business on Monday:
•the council also held public hearings and voted on: 1) an ordinance amending the zoning ordinance to add definitions; amending permitted uses within the Light Industrial (LI) district to include: brewpubs, Hookah lounges or bars and vape shops. 2) an ordinance amending additional permitted uses within the agricultural (AG) district; the zoning ordinance to provide; and for other purposes. Permitting uses for a parcel or more than one parcel containing a minimum of 10 acres operating as one farm or enterprise. Allowing the retail sale of products grown on the premises and similar products not grown on the premises to supplement the sale of products grown on the premises. Allowing agri-entertainment events, which are defines as the gathering of individuals for social, celebratory or entertainment purposes at an agricultural location (venue) in the agriculture district, including farm weddings, receptions and public gatherings. Both of these ordinances were also unanimously approved by the council.
•the council approved the appointment of Tangee Puckett as city clerk and elections superintendent effective September 1. The city’s current city clerk, Rosemary Totty, is retiring on August 31.
•the council approved city attorney Joey Homans to move forward with scheduling public hearings on proposed changes to the city’s comprehensive future land use map and a request from Tim and Harriet Williams to proceed with the intent to abandon a 10-foot strip of property with an unknown owner.
•the council denied a petition from Tim and Harriett Williams for road abandonment at 6049 Main St. for a building and carport encroachment. The council approved moving forward with the process to rezone the property from commercial to residential and waiving the fees for the rezoning application.
•the council unanimously approved the proposal from Waste Management to split the city’s collection route over two days, Mondays and Tuesday, effective October 4, 2021.
•the council discussed re-visiting the Sewer Line “I” project to include updated material costs. The finance committee will hold a meeting with the low bidder on this project.
•the council approved a budget amendment increasing the amount for Hall County Elections Board to handle the city’s November 2 election from $3,200 to $14,600.
Also, on Monday, Mayor Jim Grier announced the following upcoming events:
•”Lula Ladies Gathering” at the Depot on Wednesday, August 25, at noon for lunch and at 6:30 p.m. for dinner.
•the Hall County Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Council meeting at 8:30 a.m. on October 8 at the Depot.
•Movie in the Park on Friday, September 17, showing Toy Story at sunset. Activities will begin at 6 p.m.
•Lula Belton Historical Society’s Fall Festival to be held on Friday and Saturday, October 1 and 2, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. On Friday night there will be live entertainment.
•the city received a Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) award for becoming a “City of Ethics.” The award was presented at the annual GMA convention is Savannah in August. Grier said Lula was the only new city receiving this award.