By Joel Hall
For several months, the use of golf carts and the ownership of chickens have been topics of debate in the City of Jonesboro. On Monday night, the Jonesboro City Council adopted ordinances addressing both.
The City Council voted unanimously Monday to adopt a new animal control ordinance with an added section on the ownership of poultry.
Under the new ordinance, owners of single-family detached residences will be allowed to keep as many as 25 chickens or other domesticated birds on their property. The statute requires that any fowl owned by residents are kept in the rear or side yard in an enclosed or fenced-off structure, are for personal use only, and are not a nuisance to the neighborhood.
"It's a good compromise," Mayor Luther Maddox said on Monday. "If it [the ownership of chickens] does become a nuisance, then the nuisance ordinance will override that poultry section and the chickens would have to be removed. If a neighbor makes a complaint, then it will be investigated."
The ordinance became a topic of debate in September when local chicken enthusiast and Swint's Feed and Garden Supply owner, Willis Swint, was cited for keeping chickens at his home.
In September, Swint, 81, was told he had 15 days to remove 20 chickens kept in a hen house on his property on North McDonough Road in Jonesboro. Later that month, the city suspended the enforcement of the ordinance while it was being revamped.
Swint said he is pleased with the new ordinance.
"They patterned it after Roswell's chicken ordinance," Swint said. "I think it's a good thing. I only had 20 chickens ... now anybody in the city can have up to 25. This is for everybody who meets the requirements."
A new version of the city's golf cart ordinance was narrowly passed on Monday by a 4-3 vote of the council (council members Clarence Mann, Roger Grider, and Bobby Wiggins opposed). The mayor voted to break a three-to-three split among council members, choosing to adopt the new ordinance which allows for increased golf cart travel within the city limits -- including travel along South Main Street, to and from Burnside Drive to the Jonesboro Police Department.
In November, the Jonesboro City Council voted to repeal the golf cart ordinance while the city's legal advisors worked to craft a broader one allowing golf cart travel throughout the city.
Despite adding some travel areas, the new ordinance still prohibits travel along Tara Boulevard, Fayetteville Road, Main Street between North Avenue and Spring Street, Jonesboro Road, and Ga. Highway Spur 138, blocking golf cart access to a few neighborhoods.
Mann, who was against the new ordinance, said he doesn't believe it is fair to all citizens who may want to use golf carts.
"I don't think it is right for us to pass anything that doesn't benefit all the citizens of Jonesboro," Mann said.
Maddox said the city will adopt the new ordinance and "work on changing the streets if we have to."
In two other separate, unanimous votes, the City Council voted to create a work session on the first Monday of each month and to allow for public comment within the work session. Councilwoman Pat Sebo, who brought forth the idea, said it would give citizens and the council more time to "put our heads together."
"I think it's an excellent opportunity for the citizens of Jonesboro to have additional input," Sebo said. "Meeting once a month doesn't really give us enough time to come to grips with some of the issues we are dealing with in the City of Jonesboro. I just think we need to work a little longer and a little harder."
The council also voted unanimously to draft a resolution asking the Clayton County Legislative Delegation to float legislation to raise the City of Jonesboro's hotel/motel tax from 5 percent to 8 percent.
Sebo said Peachtree City and Morrow have already moved toward increasing their hotel/motel tax to 8 percent and that the city could stand to benefit.
"Right now, we only have one [hotel in the city limits]," she said. "I think it would be better to move on this now before somebody else wants to build."
City Attorney Steve Fincher said the city will have a "two- to three-week window" to draft a resolution and submit it to the Clayton County Legislative Delegation.