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Alcohol license approved for wine, liquor store near Chattahoochee River Club
Gary's Wine & More
The proposed building will sit on a 1.9-acre tract at the intersection of Hwy. 20, Windermere Parkway and River Club Drive. Photo courtesy of Miles Hansford & Tallant, LLC.

 During a regular meeting Thursday, Aug. 19, commissioners heard from residents of Chattahoochee River Club about the proposed liquor store, Gary’s Wine & More, abutting the neighborhood. The parcel of land that the store would be on is at 3010 River Club Drive with an access point off the main road going into the neighborhood.

The applicant requested a provisional alcohol license and previously stood before the board for a public hearing on July 22. After hearing concerns from Chattahoochee River Club neighbors, District 5 Commissioner Laura Semanson held a town hall to discuss issues and possible solutions.


The facts

The building for the store has not been constructed yet, but it is proposed to sit on a 1.9-acre tract at the intersection of Hwy. 20, Windermere Parkway and River Club Drive. There will be an entrance to the property from both Hwy. 20 and River Club Drive.

The proposed development was approved by the Chattahoochee River Club Homeowners Association President Zane Reece and John Richards of the neighborhood’s Architect Control Committee, or ACC.

 

What changed?

Since the first public hearing on July 22, the applicant changed the name of the business from Gary’s Liquors to Gary’s Wine & More.

Another change was the decision to make the River Club Drive access an entrance-only access, limiting exit options to Hwy. 20. River Club Drive will have a right-in only entrance and no exit point to help mitigate traffic concerns for the neighborhood.

 

Those opposed

Keith Scott, a neighbor and attorney, though not licensed to practice in Georgia, spoke on behalf of “himself, fellow neighbors and the community.”

Scott quoted the county’s alcohol ordinance, stating that it was passed “for the protection of the public health, safety and general welfare.”

He said that in “[digging] a little further,” the ordinance stated that an alcohol license could not be issued to an applicant that the board felt would be detrimental to the property values in the surrounding areas.

Scott explained that after learning about that, he reached out to Bruce Penn, “a certified appraiser for 40 years,” who compared residential areas that are located next to liquor stores and residential areas that are not.

“[Penn] gave the following opinion: ‘The reduction in sale prices range from 7-24% with the most consistent decrease being around 20%,’” Scott said.

Scott encouraged commissioners to not “check their common sense at the door,” but to use their discretion to deny the alcohol license.

“The law is there, the facts are there, your common sense is with you,” Scott said. “What’s right I think is fairly obvious.”

Discussion

Semanson thanked all participants for trying to “work together productively” on an issue that she admitted she would not want in front of her own neighborhood.

Semanson asked county staff about other concerns addressed in her town hall, specifically access to Bentwood Drive, a residential street behind the proposed development. Department of Engineering Director John Cunard said that there would be no vehicular access to the road.

Semanson also asked Cunard about doing a traffic study for the area. Cunard said that performing a traffic study is typically done at the time of zoning, which, for this piece of property, would have happened in 1995.

However, Cunard said that another traffic study could be done during the permitting process if the county deemed it necessary. He also stated that the Department of Engineering would be overseeing the entire process of development and would be making sure that the site is in compliance with safety and design aspects of access.

County Attorney Ken Jarrard referenced Scott’s comments, saying that the speakers all “correctly referenced” language in the county’s code. He said that the board could factor in all the information they’d been given to “make this product a better product than it ordinarily would be.”

The applicant verified that she understood all conditions that the board had placed on the provisional alcohol license, such as the condition that the access to and from Hwy. 20 had to be operational before the certificate of occupancy could be issued.  

Chairwoman Cindy Jones Mills said that she thought it was “wonderful” that Semanson was able to meet with Chattahoochee River Club neighbors to “work out” the issue with the entrance and exit point on River Club Drive.

She also said she liked the architecture of the proposed building, saying that it was “incredible” and that she thought that the applicant had been “very accommodating.”

“I applaud all of your efforts for trying to work together through a bad situation,” Mills said.

 

Decision

Commissioners voted to approve the provisional alcohol license with the presented conditions. The motion carried with a 4-0 vote with District 3 Commissioner Todd Levent absent.