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Lawrenceville to require special-use permits for airport, aviation businesses

LAWRENCEVILLE -- The Lawrenceville City Council on Monday unanimously adopted zoning ordinance changes that would require the council's permission for a privatized and expanded airport to operate in the part of Gwinnett County's Briscoe Field that lies in the city limits.

"This fills a void we had in our zoning (ordinance) and would give us some protection should the airport be privatized," Mayor Rex Millsaps said after the meeting.

The council unanimously passed a resolution in August opposing the county's plans to privatize and expand the airport to allow commercial flights. Three companies have demonstrated interest in taking over the general aviation airport.

Part of the airport property, including about half of the 6,000-foot runway, is located in Lawrenceville.

The council adopted a transportation overlay district, which includes the city's portion of the airport already zoned light manufacturing and adjacent property zoned for heavy manufacturing.

Special-use permits would be required for the airport operator, airlines and aviation businesses in the overlay district. Existing structures would be grandfathered, but any new facilities, expansions or renovations would need special-use permits. New users would also have to obtain permits.

Airport parking, shuttle and similar services would be allowable uses in the overlay district, but would be subject to regulations.

The council approved the first readings of the changes at a called meeting Sept. 1 and the second and final readings Monday.

"We're just trying to be proactive about things that might come to us in the future," Councilman Mike Crow said after Monday's meeting. "We need to have some regulations for these businesses like we do for other businesses in the city."

Crow said that in the past the city had required a special-use permit for a private heliport to operate in the city.

Former city attorney Tony Powell came forward during Monday's meeting and challenged the effectiveness of the city's zoning ordinance changes in stopping the airport expansion.

Contacted after the meeting, Powell said he was opposed to expansion of Briscoe Field, but "what is being touted as a solution (by the council) is not effective."

The city needs to repeal its 2030 Comprehensive Plan, which supported expansion of Briscoe Field, Powell said, and direct its opposition to the Gwinnett Board of Commissioners and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Powell recently qualified to run for Crow's council seat in the city's November election.

The council tabled action on an amendment to the city's code of ordinances requiring companies desiring to locate in the transportation overlay district to obtain business licenses from the city.

The business license amendment is slated for further discussion after the council reviews some changes, Millsaps said, and is expected to be adopted at a future meeting.

Action on proposed changes to the city's zoning ordinance requiring churches, synagogues, chapels and other religious facilities to obtain special-use permits to locate in residential districts was tabled. If adopted, the need to get special-use would also apply to public and quasi-public buildings for cultural use, fire stations and government buildings locating in residential districts.

An ordinance regulating precious metals dealers and shops, similar to one that exists for pawn shops, was approved.