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Sugar Hill residents to vote on Sunday sales

SUGAR HILL -- Sugar Hill has joined a quickly increasing number of cities contemplating putting Sunday package alcohol sales to vote by residents.

With minimal discussion at its monthly work session Tuesday night, the Sugar Hill City Council decided to vote at its monthly public meeting Monday to proceed with Councilman Marc Cohen's proposal of a ballot measure for residents' vote in November.

Still allowing only beer and wine sales, the proposed ordinance will expand sale from 7 a.m. to midnight Monday through Saturday to include Sunday sales from 12:30 to 11:30 p.m.

State government gave municipalities the choice to vote on Sunday sales beginning last Friday, and Cohen wanted Gwinnett County's third largest city to be among the leaders on the issue.

"We're a progressive city, and I want us to be in the forefront," he said. "Since the legislature has given cities the opportunity to allow Sunday sales, I felt it was important to open it up to our residents. I see it as an opportunity for us. Why have all that tax revenue bypass our city and go elsewhere? It helps our pro business stance, too."

Cohen, who said he knew only of seven cities but no counties that have proposed referendums, spoke at the council's May planning session of his interest in a vote on Sunday sale.

"Personally, I don't drink, but there are plenty of people who do," he had said. "And if they want to on Sunday, I don't want to be the one to stop them."

Mayor Gary Pirkle spoke against Sunday sales in May, but Councilmen Mike Sullivan and Curtis Northrup shared Cohen's desire to let voters decide.

"I don't think we have anyone in the community suffering from lack of alcohol," Pirkle had said. "I don't see where it's going to lend anything to our city."

The city also:

* Held two of three public hearings Tuesday morning and evening and plans to hold its third at Monday's council meeting to announce plans to hold its millage rate at 3.8 for the 2011 budget year. Despite losing more than $200,000 in property tax revenue in 2010 and an estimated $230,000 this year, the city has chosen not to raise the rate for a 14th consecutive year. City Manager Bob Hail recalled the rate once having been reduced in his 10 years with the city, but having held steady since.

"The economy has caused our citizens much concern and loss of buying power," Hail read from his memo to the council. "I do not recommend placing an additional burden on our citizens by increasing the tax millage rate to keep City tax revenues level. The city has adjusted its 2011 budget to operate within these reduced tax revenues."

* Discussed instituting a $500 fee to inspect mobile homes before their relocation to the city. Currently, Sugar Hill charges $175 for inspection after homes' relocation, but prior inspection would save owners of unsuitable homes the likely higher cost of initial relocation and subsequent removal.