City seeks to boot downtown ‘junk’

Published 10:19 am Friday, December 21, 2012

City of Bainbridge officials have gone back to the drawing board, in regards to a proposal aimed at preventing the usage of downtown buildings for storage of miscellaneous items.

At its meeting last Tuesday, the City Council was to have considered a proposed amendment to the city’s zoning ordinance. That amendment would have penalized owners of buildings in the city’s Central Business District, if they stored “junk” unrelated to the property’s primary use.

However, City Manager Chris Hobby — citing the Bainbridge Planning Commission’s recommended denial of the amendment at its Dec. 11 meeting — asked that the council not vote on it until it could be revised.

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Under the originally proposed text, building owners could not keep certain items defined as junk within the Central Business District for more than 90 days. Violators would have been found guilty of a misdemeanor if the zoning ordinance amendment was approved.

The Central Business District is roughly defined as the area incorporating the downtown square and some adjacent blocks along Broughton, Water, Broad and West streets.

“Rotating stock and inventory, files and records” would not have been considered junk, “provided it is screened from public view in keeping with the historic nature of the [Central Business District].”

Bainbridge Community and Economic Development Director Roy Oliver spoke before the Planning Commission on Dec. 11. Oliver stated he knew of eight downtown buildings which were already violating the city’s zoning ordinance by using their building for storage, which is not a permitted use of properties in the Central Business District. He said city staff had sent “numerous letters” to property owners asking them to clean out their buildings, with no effect.

Planning Commission member Marcie Miller questioned whether the tougher ban on downtown storage could be considered as an invasion of government into local business owners’ property rights.

Planning Commission Chairman Frank Flowers replied he believed the use of downtown buildings for storing junk was detrimental, because the buildings could not be used for traditional retail business. He also noted their “eyesore” appearance might discourage people from locating new businesses downtown.

After further discussion, the Planning Commission unanimously approved a motion by Miller “to not accept the text amendment as written, and ask the city to resubmit it with new text.”

At Tuesday’s council meeting, Hobby said he was not formally submitting a revision for a council vote yet. But he suggested the ordinance could be modified to remove a long definition of what was considered “junk” and redefine prohibited storage more simply as “items unrelated to a permitted use of a building in the Central Business District.”

Council members listed further concerns and Hobby agreed to bring back a revised proposal at a January meeting.


Other business

In other business, the council:

• Unanimously approved the renewal of 47 alcoholic beverage sales licenses for 2013. Former Council member Dr. Dean Burke, who vacated his council seat when he qualified to run for State Senate on Dec. 11, was not present.

• Unanimously approved a conditional use request from Paul Pearson to allow auto sales at his auto repair shop located at 225 Planter Street.


Bids and Bills

The council also unanimously approved the following bids and bills:

Bills: $26,148.75 from Decatur County Board of Commissioners for monthly inmate labor and landfill charges.

Bids: Two bids from Git R Done Lawn Maintenance of Bainbridge in the amount of $15,000 and $27,000, respectively, for initial cleanup of Oak City Cemetery and the total costs of monthly maintenance for one year, respectively; $8,395.20 from CommScope of Hickory, N.C., and $4,370 from TVC Communications of Saint Cloud, Fla., both bids are for supplies to be used in extending the city’s fiber data network to the Decatur County Industrial Air Park.