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City Council work session focuses on yard parking
Council also looks at changing biz license fees
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George Wood

    The Statesboro City Council held a work session Tuesday evening in which they discussed ways to address parking in front yards, an issue they admitted was difficult to find a uniform solution.

            While nothing was finalized, those present agreed that any ordinance they do approve will only affect those parcels with 15,000 square feet or more square feet, which City Manage George Wood said would alleviate a lot of the concerns people had about room to park.

            “When we had our public hearing, one of the most legitimate complaints I heard was that there were some lots that weren’t big enough and there was not enough land to park,” Wood said.

            The council has spent several months looking at haphazard parking in the front yards and ways to regulate it in a way that protects the integrity of the neighborhoods but doesn’t place and undue hardship on property owners. They looked at one ordinance previously, but tabled it and held a public hearing to solicit input from residents.

            Another point they discussed was not requiring parking to be paved, but rather allowing people to park in the side yard that’s not in front of the house.

            “If people want to park diagonally beside their driveway and it looks nice, why do we care if it’s paved,” Wood said.

            Even with the proposed changes applying only to the larger lot sizes, the council realized there may be some instances in which parking in front of the house would be a necessity for some. They suggested having the city’s planning department review those cases and try to come to an agreeable solution with the property owner, should such a case arise.

            Councilman John Morris said front yard parking was a “city-wide problem.”

            “We’re not targeting college students,” he said. “We are wanting to protect the integrity of our neighborhoods.”

            The council also discussed looking into the legality of requiring landlords to provide clearly defined parking for the number of vehicles owned by the tenants. Wood and Planning Director Jim Shaw were unsure of the legality of such a clause and said they would ask City Attorney Sam Brannen to research state law before deciding whether or not to include the requirement in any proposed ordinance.

            “Its a very difficult thing to address,” Shaw said of any ordinance regulating front yard parking. “We’ll try it and see what happens.”

            Wood said there was no intent of the city to patrol neighborhoods looking for violators. Instead, it would be handled on a “complaint basis.” Also, he said people hosting parties who may have people parking in the front yards would not be cited for violation unless it became a daily occurrence.

Occupational Tax changes

            The council also reviewed proposed changes to the city’s occupational tax, which hasn’t been updated since 1995.

            To address the issue, a panel consisting of business leaders and city officials met to come up with a fair way to change the fee. Under the current system, businesses are classified based on their type and a set fee is charged, resulting in some smaller businesses paying almost as much as large retail chains.

            Under the proposal, businesses would be charged a $75 fee plus an additional $20 per full-time employee with a maximum of $3,000. If companies had several part-time employees, they would use the equivalent of the number of full-time employees. For example, if a business had two employees who worked 20 hours each, they would count as one full-time employee in the eyes of the city.

            “One of the concerns of the panel was that you would have large businesses paying too much,” Wood said. “We discussed it and came to a $3,000 maximum.”

            The city will use figures businesses are required to submit to the Georgia Department of Labor each quarter to verify the number of employees.

            Under the proposal, city officials estimate they would generate approximately $320,000 in revenue from the new plan, up from the estimated $177,000 that will be collected this fiscal year.

            While that will obviously mean an increase for some businesses, the committee agreed that the current system isn’t fair.

            “I want to thank the committee,” said councilman Joe Brannen. “I think they came up with a very good recommendation for the council and I think the majority of businesses will be happy with what they came up with.”

            A public hearing will likely be held at the council’s meeting Tuesday night to allow residents an opportunity to express any concerns they may have about the proposal. Assuming there are no significant issues, the council is expected to approve the changes before the beginning of their fiscal year, which begins July 1.

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