VALDOSTA – The City of Valdosta lifted its moratorium on the issuance of licenses for retail package stores. 

The decision was not unanimous.

City Council ruled in favor of the moratorium’s lift in a 4-1 vote.

Councilman Eric Howard was the only one against it as all other members, sans Mayor Scott James Matheson and Councilman Andy Gibbs who both were not in attendance, voted to lift the moratorium.

The moratorium has been in effect since Oct. 10, 2019.

City Council took the action as a way of giving staff time to review the alcohol licensing ordinance and ensure it’s properly serving public interest, according to the amended agenda.

Coupled with this was the second reading and subsequent approval of an amendment to the City of Valdosta’s alcohol ordinance, chapter 6 - Alcoholic Beverages, Article II - licenses, Section 6-37.

The amendment involves the location of alcoholic beverage businesses.

According to the amended agenda, the amendment requires package stores to be within 600 radial feet or more from any church or school campus property line, a 300-feet change from the prior ordinance.

The amendment also required these stores to be at least 1,500 radial feet distance from any other retail package store.

City Manager Mark Barber said the requirement was added since the administrative review of the ordinance revealed there were no such stated boundaries beforehand.

Barber said city staff studied similar cities – university cities – ordinances to get a feel for how big a distance might be needed. City Council voted 4-1 in favor of the amendment.

Howard said he opposed the moves because the city needs to monitor the areas they are located.

“What we have in our community now is a lot of behavioral health people in different departments,” Howard said. “We don’t want those things right next to them and we just have too many in the city limits.”

Barber said an amendment could be added to the alcohol ordinance, but the city is no stranger to denying liquor store requests.

“In District 3, Councilman (Sonny) Vickers had an issue with a convenience store. It was outside our current parameters (300 feet),” Barber said. “I felt that even though it was outside and it met our current ordinance, it was still too close to the school there. So, that would’ve been denied.”

Barber said with the increased range of the amended ordinance, there will be enough space to help with Howard’s cautions.

Even if Howard and the rest of City Council decided to go forward with making an additional amendment, Timothy Tanner, city attorney, said he has information in mind that can help.

“There are some provisions under the state alcohol law that prevents the issuance of alcohol licenses close to facilities like you’re referencing,” Tanner said.

City Council unanimously approved the second reading of an alcohol ordinance amending chapter 6 - Alcoholic Beverages, Article III - Operations, Section 6-84 - consumption off premises.

The ordinance structures the entertainment district which defines all public spaces, streets, sidewalks, open areas, all parcels and tracts of real property in the Central Valdosta Authority District.

The entertainment district will also extend from West Hill Avenue between Toombs Street and South Briggs Street, and both sides of South Briggs Street between West Hill Avenue and West Savannah Avenue.

It’ll also be set along the southeastern corner of Central Avenue and Lee Street known as Lee Street Park and Patterson Street North to the Annette Howell Turner Center for the Arts.

Outside consumption of alcohol will be permitted within so long as it’s from a business in good standing with the city and has an alcohol license; the liquor is in a designated cup with the city’s approved logo; the cup was purchased by the Main Street office or designee; and the business maintains the food to alcohol ratio per the city’s alcohol permit.

Outside consumption will only last between 11 a.m. and midnight, Monday through Saturday, unless approved by a special city event, according to the amendment.

Downtown residents will have special provisions.

The city is preparing easement and right-of-way plats for the Dogwood Circle neighborhood with the approval of its fees.

The Dogwood Circle neighborhood includes Dogwood Drive, Dogwood Circle, Cason Street and Dogwood Lane which is a total of 60 residential lots and one commercial lot.

A design survey deemed the neighborhood’s right-of-way portions inadequate as their widths vary, they are narrow and the existing pavement is wider than the existing right-of-way at the intersection of Dogwood Drive and East Park Avenue, according to the amendment.

Innovate! Engineering was selected to perform the design work. The design price submitted, $49,500, was approved on Aug. 10, 2020. Additional work has been needed.

Permanent easements for yard drainage inlets, addition right-of-way at intersections and additional right-of-way at the entrance of the neighborhood – Dogwood Drive and portions of the south side of Dogwood Circle – are needed.

Temporary easements while construction occurs will also be needed.

Innovate! Engineering submitted the fee for 57 plats at $39,900, which was negotiated down to $22,800. Combined with the design price, this exceeds the $50,000 signatory threshold.

Council approved the request unanimously.

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