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Council OKs rewrite of alcohol ordinance in thorough meeting

Milton’s City Council approved a thorough rewrite of the city’s alcohol-related ordinances on Monday evening, paving the way for microbreweries, food halls, growler shops, distilleries and more.

The vote came after extensive discussion involving Mayor Joe Lockwood, Council members, and two community members who offered “public comment” – one over Zoom and the other, Painted Horse Winery and Vineyards owner Pamela Jackson, speaking in person inside the Council chambers. The meeting was the first since March to be held in City Hall due to the COVID-19 pandemic, though numerous measures in effect on Monday reflected efforts ongoing efforts to protect citizens and officials' health. Those included spaced-out seating, cleaning the lectern after each speaker and continuing to give people the opportunity to watch and offer “public comment” virtually.

Milton Economic Development Manager Sarah LaDart presented the alcohol-related proposal, which had previously been vetted by the City’s Planning Commission, and fielded a wide-ranging series of question from Council members. The discussion enveloped 11 different agenda items. Nine of those were part of Chapter 64, a.k.a. the Zoning Chapter, of Milton’s City Code and allowed for new licenses and permits in different commercial zones. The other two pertained to Chapter 4 of the same Code, which includes (but is not limited to) changes such as:

• Allowing for breweries and micro-breweries, as well as distilleries and micro-distilleries
• Permitting food halls, courtyard markets and “city food markets”
• Allowing craft beer and/or wine markets as well as growler shops
• Adjusting establishments’ alcohol-to-food ratio from 50:50 to 70:30, which means as much as 70 percent of its revenues can come from the sale of alcoholic beverages
• Adding temporary license fees and Sunday sales fees
• Letting restaurants sell “incidental” package beer and wine
• Giving out two-year pouring permits (as opposed to annual permits, which is the current practice)
• Allowing a “Limited Tap Establishment” to have up to five taps (compared to the current four) and allow “craft beer” that doesn’t have to be brewed within 50 aerial miles of Milton
• Removing “happy hour” restrictions

Much of the discussion revolved around farm wineries – specifically the only one in Milton, the Painted Horse, after Jackson stated the rewrite would be too restrictive. Mayor Lockwood and other Council members voiced an interest in supporting Jackson’s particular business. Ultimately, the Council unanimously approved the proposal as is while directing City staff to make possible changes to the farm winery provision. City Manager Steven Krokoff said he expected such changes “could be turned around quickly.”

Earlier in the meeting, Finance Director Bernadette Harvil gave a detailed presentation outlining amendments to the City of Milton’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget – i.e. differences between the amount projected to be spent on something and what’s been actually spent, including instances in which the City spent less money and spent more money than anticipated. Harvil went item-by-item through each City Department, noting that some budgeted items (like a traffic speed study) have yet to be funded in this fiscal year, which ends on September 30.

The Council also got a First Presentation of a revision to Milton’s Tree Canopy Conservation Ordinance – the result, along with the related Tree Conservation Manual, of City staff’s close work with the Citizens Stakeholder Committee and Milton’s Planning Commission. There was no final vote on the Ordinance; if and when that happens, the goal would be for it to take effect on August 1, 2020. The plan is for City staff to spend time leading up to then explaining the Ordinance through community educational events, posts on social media and the City’s website, flyers in the City Hall lobby, and the launch of a “Plant Milton!” intiiative.

The City Council also voted to prohibit all forms of vaping on City property, looping it in with smoked and smokeless tobacco. The First Presentation of these two related items had been at the May 18 Council meeting.

Another measure that became law Monday pertained to “personal transportation vehicles” (i.e. golf carts). This adopts the parameters of State law through a local ordinance to allow for golf carts to be driven on certain streets subject to State regulations. Neighborhoods with privately maintained streets could still ban (or allow) them, as Milton law enforcement officers do not have the authority to enforce basic traffic laws (with exceptions) or regulate traffic on such roadways. These types of vehicles would also still be prohibited from crossing state routes as indicated in the State law.

In other business, the City Council adopted a resolution to appoint members of the advisory committee that will help craft Milton’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan. The Comprehensive Plan lays out the City’s vision and goals, specifically touching on the regulation of public policies related to land use, housing, economic development, transportation, and more. Milton’s next Comprehensive Plan is due to the state Department of Community Affairs in the fall of 2021.

The Council also gave its assent for the City of Milton’s participation in the Fulton County Urban County Community Development Block Grant Program. This means Milton can apply for such federal funding that aims to assist low- and moderate-income communities.

Lastly, the City Council approved a resolution formally encouraging the State of Georgia to fund NOW/COMP waivers – programs for people with developmental or intellectual disabilities.

The Milton City Council, along with Mayor Lockwood, held an off-site retreat Tuesday in Mountain Park. Its next regular meeting is scheduled for June 15.