Clayton County Board of Commissioners set to regulate "teen lounges," short-term rentals

In April, a triple shooting at an unlicensed teen venue on Lake Harbin Road left three boys wounded. The Board of Commissioners is cracking down on unlicensed teen lounges.

JONESBORO — The Clayton County Board of Commissioners is set to impose new regulations on teen "lounges" and short-term rentals through services like AirBnB at tonight's meeting. 

Chairman Jeff Turner said changing the existing "teen center" ordinance to "teen lounge" was something that young leaders had requested. In addition, he said, the new ordinance will include safety measures for the teens' protection.

"We always talk about having a safe place for kids, a safe place to go, sort of like an internet cafe," Turner explained. "The youth came to us with a couple of requests to make it more youth-friendly."

In addition, "One of the requirements is that [the owners] will have to have security for the youth that's in there." Closing times "will be strictly enforced. Now that we have the Quality of Life Board, it has the right to suspend or revoke [the license], and we're going to be strict about it."

Turner said there hasn't been a problem with teen lounges because "there are none right now, to my knowledge."

Although there have been problems sometimes when teenagers meet at event centers, the centers themselves are generally not the problem, Turner said.

"There's nothing in the guidelines about use of an event center or a party center for a quinceañera or Sweet 16." But if a facility is open to teenagers as a continuous use, he added, it must be licensed.

Ordinance 2019-97 removes the term "teen club" and replaces it with the term "teen lounge," which is defined as "any business establishment, either for-profit or non-profit, catering exclusively to individuals between the ages of 13 to 17 years and which is operated primarily as a place for such individuals to congregate for social or educational activities for an admission fee. Patrons must present a picture identification for admission into the establishment. A teen lounge shall not include any business establishment which is operated as a place for the exchange of merchandise for consideration."

The ordinance also would require:

• any such establishment to first seek a license from the Department of Community Development;

• all patrons off the premises by 10:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday;

• licensees not to allow teens to bring in alcoholic beverages or controlled substances of any kind;

• teens not to bring in alcoholic beverages of any kind;

• teens to show a photo ID to gain entry;

• licensees to keep a running count of patrons in the lounge;

• at least one security officer for every 150 patrons;

• at least three adult chaperones, one of which must be female, for the first 100 teens and one for every 30 additional teens.

The BOC also will consider an ordinance authorizing the county attorney to send cease and desist letters to "any owner, platform or manager" violating prohibited activity at short-term rentals. Turner said short-term rentals are generally being abused by "the 20-somethings and the 30-somethings," over and over again in the same locations.

Turner said he knows of two homes in particular, one in Lake Spivey and another in unincorporated Jonesboro, that have been the sites of ongoing problems.

As services like AirBnB and VRBO.com catch on, even areas of metro Atlanta that aren't really tourist destinations have seen their share of unruly parties and damaged homes. Cities like Sandy Springs, Brookhaven and Dunwoody have come up with various regulations aimed at curbing rude guests in residential areas.

A companion measure would allow the county attorney to file injunctions against "any owner, platform or manager operating a Short-Term Rental Unit without a valid county business license issued by the Clayton County Department of Community Development."

According to the ordinance, the Board of Commissioners "finds that unregulated short-term rental units have the potential to destabilize communities, create noise pollution, create traffic hazards and disrupt the comfort, peace, safety and welfare of County citizens."

By authorizing the county attorney to file injunctions rapidly, the BOC hopes to use the threat of lawsuits to shut down out-of-control short-term rentals.

Read the full list of proposed teen lounge regulations at https://bit.ly/33KDYHD

Read the proposals to authorize cease and desist letters and injunctions against unlicensed short-term rentals at https://bit.ly/2z9o0IT and https://bit.ly/31NilEE

The meeting starts tonight at 6:30 p.m. at the Board of Commissioners headquarters, 112 Smith St., Jonesboro.

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