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Community council votes against proposed liquor store in Decatur
by Christine Fonville
June 24, 2014 10:40 AM | 2002 views | 1 1 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Last week, the District 2 Community Council of DeKalb County voted against the proposal of an alcohol outlet at the former Batteries Plus site, 2788 Lawrenceville Hwy. in Decatur.

The six opposed and one abstained vote came after residents and business owners in the area as well as Mathew Miller, president of The Woodlawn Group — which owns multiple commercial buildings in the area — spoke on why they were for or against the proposal.

Miller said the store where the proposed alcohol outlet potentially would be located has been vacant for the last 15 months and that Basil Gordon, who was not present at the meeting, applied for a special permit for his proposed business.

“Mr. Gordon is a former police officer and successful business owner who sees an opportunity to bring his talents and capital to that part of DeKalb,” Miller said. “It would create jobs, create opportunities and fill a vacancy I’ve had in my building for quite some time.”

However, residents and business owners in the surrounding area showed up in numbers to oppose the business due to non-compliances and escalating crime in the area.

“This proposed liquor outlet is less than the 200 yards required from the nearest home, less than 200 yards required from the church across the street and less than 200 yards from a child care facility,” said Beryl Farris, a resident representing many of the opponents of the proposal. “We think that before a special land use permit can be considered, this business should be brought into code as much as it can be.”

Both Miller and Farris said extended-stay motels in the area are to blame for much of the crime occurring, but Miller argued that no matter what business opened in the vacant building, crimes would still happen.

“As a business owner, I’m trying to find a legitimate tenant and if this [special land use permit] is denied, the building will still be empty and crime is still going to be there because the true root of the problem is the motels,” said Miller.

Although Gordon said in a previous meeting that his law enforcement background would help ensure heavy police patrol of the area, Farris said that was not a solution to the problem.

“Mr. Gordon said before that having been in law enforcement, he felt very good about having a good turnout of law enforcement personnel to check on property, but frankly, as a neighbor, that is a diversion of scarce resources and I don’t want police pulled out of our neighborhoods to protect a commercial nuisance building,” she said.

Although the community council voted against the proposal at the end of the meeting, the issue will next be heard by the DeKalb County Planning Commission in Decatur. The commission consists of political appointees and hears issues in preparation for the subsequent and final review by county commissioners, soon thereafter.

Simon Umlauf said after the meeting, he and other neighbors opposed to the alcohol outlet spoke with Miller about the future of the proposed business.

“I mentioned to him that once this liquor store ordeal is completely over, our neighboring business owners and residents would like to have him, the owners of the extended-stay hotels and other property owners all sit down to talk about making this part of Lawrenceville Highway into a more inviting location,” Umlauf said. “Miller said he would love to sit at that table but he’s still contractually obligated to his liquor store client right now.”

A meeting about the liquor store and crime concerns in the area will be hosted at Rehoboth Baptist Church at 2997 Lawrenceville Hwy. in Tucker July 1 at 7 p.m.

DeKalb County interim CEO Lee May, DeKalb County Chief of Public Safety Cedric Alexander and the command staff of the DeKalb County Police Department have already committed to attend this meeting.

For more information on this and other proposals in the county, visit www.planningdekalb.net.

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Chris Opstad
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June 25, 2014
As a long time resident of this area I would love to see a plan for true positive economic development in this community. We need residents to show their support in this initiative and the first goal should be to stop this undesirable business from going forward. I trust the planning commission will take the best interest of concerned residents to heart!
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