The Lula City Council, on Monday, Feb. 17, unanimously approved extending a moratorium on issuing business licenses for new vape shops within the city.

The council approved extending the moratorium for 120 days – from Feb. 17, 2020 - to gather additional information and have a better understanding of what the legislature might consider.

Mayor Jim Grier said this issue is “on the radar” of the legislature during the current session.

SPRING STREET VARIANCE DENIED

In a unanimous vote the council denied a variance request from Luke Lovell, LCTL Properties, to allow an older manufactured home at 6967 Spring Street be replaced with a new 2020, but smaller than the city’s ordinance allows, manufactured home. Lovell purchased the property in 2016.

The city’s ordinance calls for a minimum of 1,200 square feet and the home Lovell was proposing for the site was 880 square feet.

City manager Dennis Bergin said the current home has been vacant for 10 years as far as he can tell. The home being proposed by Lovell would be a rental property.

Several nearby residents turned out to speak in opposition to the variance request.

Felton Ellison said the structure would be too close to his home and he already has issues with gas and smoke fumes from nearby property coming into his residence. He said both his wife and his uncle have breathing problems and this causes issues for both of them.

Mary Barbee said she was opposed because the street does not accommodate emergency vehicles.

“That’s not the place for another mobile home,” she said. “It needs to be a stick-built home.”

Lovell said a stick-built home was not an option.

“Stick-built is too expensive for rental purposes,” he said.

Bergin said the city’s planning commission recommended denial of the variance application.

Bergin told the council that the lot could accommodate more than the 880 square foot home.

Lovell had originally asked for a variance on setbacks from 25 feet to 2 feet on the front, but later withdrew that request. He said the proposed home could be turned differently to meet the 25-foot setback requirement.

PEGGY LOVELL PROCLAMATION APPROVED

The council unanimously approved a proclamation honoring Lula area resident Peggy Lovell for her 41 years as administrative assistant at the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission (GMRC). Lovell will be retiring in March.

Bergin told the council that Lovell had been a great asset for the city in her work at GMRC.

LETTER OF SUPPORT/OPPOSITION GOING TO LEGISLATURE

Also on Monday, the council approved submitting a letter to both the state and house representatives stating the city’s position on several proposed bills, including:

•SB 309 – Financing for Infrastructure – The city is in favor of this bill that will help communities benefit from lower costs to taxpayers by providing a less expensive alternative to finance projects.

•HB 834 – Revenue Bonds for Broadband – The city is in favor of this legislation that would add an additional tool for local government to address broadband needs.

•HB 779 – TAVT Distribution Adjustment – The city also favors this legislation that would recoup some of the cities’ lost revenue from the July 1, 2019 allocation distribution change.

•HB 302 and SB 172 – Preemption of Local Design Standards – The city opposes this legislation that could allow residents or special interests to determine the character of the local community.

•HB 523 – Short-Term Rental Properties – The city also opposes this legislation to preempt cities from regulating short-term rental properties.

OTHER BUSINESS

In other business at the Feb. 17 meeting, the council:

•approved an amendment releasing the escrow requirement from the city’s existing Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) loan.

•received notice from Bergin that the December 2019 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) collections were up 10 percent.

•approved sending the proposal for a Sunday beer and wine sales referendum in November 2020 to committee for consideration.

•heard a report from Bergin that 36 trees in the city’s Wellness Park need attention. Bergin said he was in the process of getting prices for this and this issue would then be passed along to the city’s finance committee for review.

•received notice that the work had begun on the parking lot on Athens Street. Bergin said the city received a bid of $13,250 from Square Deal for a gravel parking lot. He said the grading had been started. Bergin said the funding would come out of the general fund for street repairs. Bergin advised the council that proposed corrective action on Pine Street at Athens Street where a freight company uses the streets would be an expensive venture and options are still being explored.

•unanimously approved a $2,500 entertainment contract for Lula Railroad Days set for May 8 and 9. The booth rental fee for the event is $60. The city plans a “Movie in the Depot Park” for Friday night.

•was reminded the Ladies Gathering is set for Thursday, Feb. 27, for lunch at noon or dinner at 6:30 p.m. The theme is St. Patrick’s Day.

•received notice from Bergin that the city’s planning and zoning commission meets the second Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. at city hall.

•was advised by Bergin that the third interviews for event coordinator applicants will be held this week, hopefully.

•was reminded that the 2020 Census is coming up. Bergin said it is very important that every person be counted.

•received notice that the city would be hosting the GMRC city and county managers at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 19, at The Depot.

•met in closed session for approximately 20 minutes to discuss land acquisition. No action was taken.

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