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Statesboro council OKs camera, gate mandates for apartment complexes
Will apply only to new or overhauled properties; Event Centers Ordinance, UDC get first reading
council and consultant
Caleb P. Racicot, foreground, a principal planner for the TSW planning consultant firm, faces Statesboro City Council, including members Paulette Chavers, left, and Phil Boyum, center, and staff including City Clerk Leah Harden, right, while describing the Unified Development Code. The council voted the UDC and other proposed ordinances forward from first readings Tuesday and enacted an Apartment Security Ordinance. (AL HACKLE/staff)

Statesboro City Council on Tuesday enacted an Apartment Security Ordinance requiring security cameras at drives into and out of apartment complexes plus, for larger complexes, either gates or license plate readers. But these rules will only apply to new, resold or extensively renovated properties.

Several other ordinances were voted forward on "first readings" after public hearings that were part of the meeting but during which no citizens rose to speak either for or against the proposals. These included the proposed Event Centers Ordinance — which also carries an outdoor security camera requirement — and the new 454-page Unified Development Code, or UDC, a rewrite of Statesboro's zoning regulations and related ordinances.

All of the proposed ordinances that received first-reading votes, including the UDC, may be enacted by the council during the Sept. 19 meeting. They will be presented then for "second readings," which do not require further hearings.

What's exempt

But the Apartment Security Ordinance, which had been voted forward on a first reading Aug. 15, was approved 5-0 Tuesday on a motion from District 4 Councilmember John Riggs, seconded by District 2 Councilmember Paulette Chavers. It took effect immediately, except that it doesn't apply to any apartment complexes already existing this week, unless they undergo major changes.

Tracts of land that have 25 or fewer apartment units under any single ownership are also exempt, since they don't meet the new city law's definition of "apartment complex." 

The ordinance requires camera systems at all vehicle access points for all non-exempt complexes containing more than 25 apartments, plus an additional level of "controlled access" for complexes with more than 50 units.

It requires that the camera systems be connected to the Statesboro Police Department's currently contracted Fusus video network "or any other data collection system then in use by Statesboro PD." Property owners or managers will be required to archive video for a minimum of seven days and have it available for inspection by police "in the course of investigating criminal behavior."

Additionally, non-exempt apartment complexes containing more than 50 residential units will be required to have either "controlled, gated access" or tag readers at all vehicle entrances and, if using the tag reader option, must retain tag reader data for at least 30 days.

During the council's Aug. 15 work session, Chavers said she supported the regulations "to cut back on future crime."

"That is the only reason why I'm for these cameras for apartment complexes, especially the ones that are going to be newly built," she said.

The brief, new city law section states that it "shall not apply to Apartment Complexes existing as of" the date it was enacted, which turns out to be Sept. 5, 2023.

Then it states: "This Article shall apply to any newly constructed Apartment Complexes, to Apartment Complexes being renovated or modified to the extent that a building permit is required or Apartment Complexes that have changed ownership."

Complexes required to have the camera systems could face fines up to $1,000 a day — as with other violations of city codes — for not having operating cameras, City Attorney Cain Smith said during an August work session. But Chief of Police Mike Broadhead noted that fines for such violations follow Municipal Court processes that generally give people a chance to cooperate.

Event centers

The proposed Event Centers Ordinance was sent forward to a second reading by a 5-0 council vote Tuesday, but only after a different council member than before expressed doubts about approving it as written. 

The ordinance would require a license for any event center, defined as "a non-residential location hosting private parties, live musical concerts, performing arts presentations or performances and/or any other type of entertainment that does not hold a valid city alcohol license with a maximum occupancy load exceeding 25 persons."

This requirement would not apply to places that have licenses to serve alcoholic beverages, Smith has repeatedly emphasized. The proposed new ordinance would be in a different city code section, separate from the Alcoholic Beverages Ordinance.

By obtaining an event center license, center operators would consent that Statesboro Police and Fire Department personnel "may enter any event in order to assess life safety issues and compliance" and that those agencies could halt an event for "failure to abide by life safety regulations."

Alcoholic beverages would be prohibited unless a special event permit or catered event permit is obtained for the specific time and date.

However, District 1 Councilman Phil Boyum argued Tuesday that the event centers licensing, combined with special event permits, would give event center operators a way around the city's stricter rules for bars and restaurants that serve alcohol, particularly the required training of staff to avoid serving people under age 21.

"If the people aren't going to be trained, just like anybody else would that would be serving alcohol, I'm going to have a problem with that ordinance being written that way," Boyum said, "because that's exactly the problem we've had with these event centers for the last 10 years."

City Manager Charles Penny said, "To Councilman Boyum's point, I don't think we're prepared to answer that today. However, this is only the first reading, and if council is so inclined to move forward with it, before the second reading, which would be at the next meeting, we will ensure that all administrative processes are outlined to you."

Riggs said he was for approving the first reading and made the motion to do so, which District 3 Councilwoman Venus Mack seconded.

The vote was 5-0, as were all votes Tuesday. Presiding in the absence of Mayor Jonathan McCollar, Mayor Pro Tem Shari Barr exercised her vote as the District 5 councilmember.

UDC first reading

The Unified Development Code, drafted and revised by the planning firm TSW over the past year and a half on contract with the city, will update and replace Statesboro's previous zoning rules and related ordinances. Caleb P. Racicot, a TSW principal planner, reviewed the process used for input from property owners and developers and summarized key points Tuesday.

In addition to the first reading of the UDC itself, the council approved first readings of related amendments to the cable communications, cemeteries and environment ordinances.

Ice cream trucks

A proposed Mobile Public Vending Ordinance was also sent forward from a first reading. If enacted, it will allow ice cream trucks and any similar mobile vendors of prepackaged food and nonalcoholic beverages to operate with a vendor permit and business license, generally between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m., with other restrictions.

This is different from the existing rules for food trucks.

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