County mulls in-home day­cares, cater­ing li­censes

The Covington News - - LOCAL - GABRIEL KHOULI gkhouli@cov­news.com

County of­fi­cials are go­ing to con­sider re-al­low­ing in-home day cares and al­low­ing cater­ers to serve al­co­hol in the county at spe­cial events, af­ter two res­i­dents brought up the is­sues at the May 6 meet­ing.

In-home day cares

New­ton County used to al­low day cares in homes, but com­mis­sion­ers voted in 2008 to out­law day cares in res­i­den­tial zon­ings, ac­cord­ing to Jenny Carter with the county at­tor­ney’s of­fice.

Prior to the change, here is what New­ton County al­lowed:

• For one to two chil­dren, there were no county reg­u­la­tions • For three to six chil­dren, day care oper­a­tors had to meet cer­tain county re­quire­ments to get au­tho­riza­tion from the county • For seven to 12 chil­dren, day care oper­a­tors had to re­ceive a con­di­tional use per­mit Carter said she be­lieved the Board of Com­mis­sion­ers voted in 2008 to out­law res­i­den­tial day care cen­ters be­cause there were con­cerns about the largest cen­ters, those with seven to 12 chil­dren, cre­at­ing too much traf­fic, noise and safety is­sues in res­i­den­tial ar­eas.

New­ton County res­i­dent Steve Fritz spoke to the board at its May 6 meet­ing and asked why the law was changed. He said his wife has been watch­ing chil­dren for more than 30 years and he and his were dis­ap­pointed to learn about the lo­cal law change.

Fritz said the change is forc­ing many people to watch chil­dren il­le­gally in or­der to make it fi­nan­cially worth it. He also said the county is los­ing out on rev­enue.

Carter looked at sev­eral other sur­round­ing gov­ern­ments and found that most al­lowed res­i­den­tial day cares for at least six chil­dren and un­der, in­clud­ing Cov­ing­ton and Henry, Jasper, Mor­gan, Rock­dale and Wal­ton coun­ties. Jasper and Mor­gan coun­ties also al­low res­i­den­tial day cares with seven or more chil­dren.

Carter said there were some com­mon re­quire­ments among the or­di­nances of other gov­ern­ments, in­clud­ing re­quir­ing that day cares:

• Be li­censed by the state • Main­tain their res­i­den­tial ap­pear­ance • Not have any sig­nage for the day care • Have a min­i­mum-size fenced play area • Have a paved drive­way • Be oc­cu­pied by a res­i­dent at all times • Pass a fire mar­shal in­spec­tion and have a sprin­kler sys­tem Com­mis­sioner Nancy Schulz agreed with lim­it­ing the size of res­i­den­tial day cares say­ing the day cares should not be to make a lot of money but to serve chil­dren.

Com­mis­sioner Lanier Sims said he has had many res­i­dents tell him they would get li­censed by the state and then go to get a county busi­ness li­cense only to be told day cares weren’t al­lowed; he said he was happy the board was at least look­ing at the is­sue.

Com­mis­sioner John Dou­glas asked the county at­tor­ney’s of­fice and county staff to come back to the board with a pro­posed or­di­nance.

Cater­ing li­censes

Lo­cal restau­rant owner Su­san Kirk, who owns Scoops and Just Dogs in Cov­ing­ton, asked the Board of Com­mis­sion­ers May 6 to con­sider al­low­ing businesses that al­ready have a restau­rant li­cense to be able to serve beer and wine when they cater pri­vate events in the county.

Kirk said Cov­ing­ton re­cently amended its or­di­nances to al­low such cater­ing.

Kirk said she catered a cus­tomer ap­pre­ci­a­tion event for Fat Boys Golf Cart but wasn’t able to serve al­co­hol on a pri­vate property in the county be­cause of the county laws.

Ac­cord­ing to Carter, if the county wanted to be­gin al­low­ing al­co­hol to be served at pri­vate events, it would have to change county laws to al­low a cater­ing li­cense. Un­der state law, both pack­age stores and restaurants with al­co­hol-by-the-drink li­censes would be able to get a cater­ing li­cense.

Those businesses would then be able to get an event per­mit to cater an event with al­co­hol, which is also al­lowed un­der state law. For businesses that don’t have a busi­ness li­cense through the county, like Kirk’s businesses, they would still be al­lowed to get an event per­mit if they had a valid al­co­hol li­cense through an­other govern­ment.

State law says that an event per­mit fee of $50 may be col­lected and lo­cal ex­cise taxes may be col­lected.

Carter said the county could add sev­eral other stip­u­la­tions to any or­di­nance al­low­ing pri­vate events to serve al­co­hol, in­clud­ing lim­it­ing the hours al­co­hol can be served, lim­it­ing the type of events where it can be sold and even re­quir­ing a spe­cific ra­tio of the to­tal cost of food com­pared to the to­tal cost of al­co­hol. This last item, the ra­tio of food to drink, is of­ten used by gov­ern­ments to reg­u­late restaurants, en­sur­ing they don’t be­come bars by re­quir­ing them to make a cer­tain per­cent­age of money, of­ten 50 per­cent or more, on food.

Carter said Glynn County had a good or­di­nance. Dou­glas asked a pro­posed or­di­nance to be brought be­fore the board for this item as well.

How­ever, Dou­glas said he thinks such an or­di­nance, if passed, should ap­ply to the en­tire county, not just the over­lay zon­ing districts the county is im­ple­ment­ing in the county’s ex­ist­ing commercial ar­eas. When the county passed al­co­hol-by-the-drink for restaurants, it limited that to only spe­cific zon­ing over­lays. There is cur­rently an over­lay in the Al­mon and Salem road cor­ri­dors; an­other one is be­ing cre­ated in the Brick Store area, where U.S. 278 meets Ga. High­way 11 and County Road 229.

Com­mis­sioner Lanier Sims said the county may want to con­sider re-ex­am­in­ing lim­it­ing al­co­hol-bythe-drink to zon­ing over­lays, be­cause the is­sue could “blow up in our face at some point.”

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