Photo by Heather Middleton
By Curt Yeomans
The Clayton County Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 Tuesday to amend a county ordinance, which bans people from parking a car for sale in a public right-of-way, to grant exemptions to owners of new, and used, car dealerships.
As a result of the amendment, county officials said, the ordinance can now work to solely curb the activity it was originally intended to prevent -- unlicensed car sales. Commissioner Michael Edmondson cast the lone vote against the resolution to amend the ordinance.
"Unlicensed people who are using the public right-of-way as a car lot, that's what we're trying to stop," said Clayton County Police Department Legal Advisor, Maj. Ken Green.
Green and commission Chairman Eldrin Bell also said the amendment brings balance between new car sales lots, who already had an exemption, and used car sales lots, which did not previously have the same benefit.
In a July 19 written request to commissioners, asking for the amendment, Green explained "the purpose of the ordinance was to target unlicensed car dealers, who were parking cars for sale on the county right-of-way."
The legal advisor and Bell elaborated Tuesday, saying the ordinance was written a few years ago because there was an issue with people parking cars along Tara Boulevard, and putting "For sale" signs on them, essentially creating unofficial "car lots" in public right-of-ways.
"What occurs is they [unlicensed car-sellers] pick out a certain place, and then they start parking cars there," Bell said. "Then somebody else brings one. The next thing you know, you've got three or four [cars] there. That happened on Tara Boulevard, and so those were our concerns."
But, as Green wrote to commissioners in his request last month, "the language of the ordinance is so broadly written that it also targets licensed car dealers." Used car dealerships, who were parking cars for sale along public right-of-ways right next to their dealerships, also ended up getting ticketed under the ordinance, he explained on Tuesday.
County police officers and sheriff's deputies can impound cars parked in violation of the ordinance. The ordinance stipulates that owners of vehicles parked in violation of the ordinance can be summoned to Clayton County Magistrate Court, to answer for the crime.
Green explained that at least one used car dealer had complained to Clayton County Police Chief Greg Porter about the leniency given to new car lots. Green said the police chief, in turn, asked him to look at addressing that issue.
Bell said balance was needed because the ordinance had begun to have multiple meanings for different types of car-sellers.
"Our ordinance was saying two different things, and I believe our regulation should be enforced equitably across the board," Bell said. He later explained "It's saying you can't sell the cars up and down the right-of-way ... then, when you come right up 54 highway [Ga. Hwy. 54], you see where some of the [new] car lots have built right up within a certain number of feet [of the highway].
"I don't mind that, but if you're going to do that for them, then permit it for others [used car lots]."
Edmondson, during discussion on the amendment, said car salespeople should be treated the same, however, regardless of whether they are licensed to sell a vehicle. "If there are rules that the right-of-way shouldn't be littered with cars for sale, I think they should pertain to everybody, not just those that don't have business licenses," he said.
In other action, the commission unanimously approved a change of name for the public road right-of-way that passes the future site of the National Museum of Commercial Aviation, from Fulford Drive, to Airline Museum Way, and to accept grant funds from the Judicial Council of Georgia Standing Committee on Drug Courts, on behalf of the Clayton County DUI Court ($20,923) and the Clayton County Adult Felony Drug Court ($18,074).