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County looks at zoning rules for nightclubs

By Justin Reedy

Business people looking to open a nightclub in Clayton County could soon have a new regulation to deal with beforehand.

The Clayton County Board of Commissioners will vote today on a measure that would require prospective nightclubs to get a conditional use permit from the county before opening, even if the property is correctly zoned for such a club.

Now, developers can put a nightclub on any property zoned for general business, but county officials say that can cause problems. Officials say a country music club and restaurant called the Rusty Rooster that opened recently in Ellenwood has created such problems. That club was opened in a shopping center that used to house a grocery store, and is near a public school, a church and a residential area.

"I think that's what brought it to a head is that being able to move into a shopping center without coming before the commission and asking for a conditional use permit," said Commissioner Charley Griswell.

But since that club opened and caused some criticism from officials and local residents, the county drafted the change to its planning and zoning rules to require a conditional use permit for proposed nightclubs. The county defines such a club as a "place of entertainment open at night serving food and alcoholic beverages, having a floor show (or other performance designed to entertain), and providing music and space for dancing."

Enacting such a change should help the commission prevent a nightclub from moving into an area of the county where local residents are opposed to it, officials said.

"It didn't make sense to us that you could put a nightclub so close to a church or a school," said Crandle Bray, chairman of the county commission. "It's one of those things where the commission will have the final say before there's a public outcry."

"Hopefully it'll prevent businesses like that from moving into a shopping center," added Griswell. "We need to cover ourselves and remove that loophole."

In other business, the commission will also discuss the following items:

* Changing the county zoning ordinance dealing with the maximum number of housing units in a high-density residential development, from eight units per building to 12 units. The move won't actually change the density of developments, Bray said, since developers will still only be allowed eight units per acre of land. But the change will give more flexibility for developers to put more housing units in a building, saving land in the overall development that can be preserved as green space.

"That will allow more open space, and that makes sense to us," Bray said.

* The 2003 capital improvement projects for Tara Field, the county airport in Hampton. The projects, which the county hopes will be funded by grants from the Federal Aviation Administration, will help boost security at the general aviation facility.

The county hopes to install security fencing around the entire airport property, as well as new lights on the runway and taxiway, according to Ed Toney, civil engineer at Tara Field. The grant could also fund security lighting for the airport's lower ramp area where planes are parked, which isn't a well-lit area now. The new fencing and the security lighting will help improve security for the entire airport facility, Toney said.

"We didn't have the area to do fencing before," he said. "But since we've done the land acquisitions over the last few months we can secure our fenceline now."

* Changing the county's property laws to allow owners of officially recognized historic landmark property to get a preferential assessment on that property. The change would allow people who own land registered on either the state or national historical landmark registry to get a discount on their property taxes, as long as the owner is a non-profit organization or earns no profit on the property.