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Snellville approves conditional use permit for church

SNELLVILLE – Lifegate International Church was granted a conditional use permit and the necessary variances for redevelopment of the vacant property located at 2410 Wisteria Drive. The 3.844-acre property was formerly a shopping center and is now a blighted area that would benefit from redevelopment. Monday’s action by city council paved the way for the church to move into the building immediately, then develop a master plan for redevelopment.

Chad Smith, architect and former Snellville council member, spoke on behalf of the church during Mondays’ city council meeting. “Many of the ordinances and overlays we established for the city five to 10 years ago are prohibiting growth in the city today,” Smith said, making reference to the very different economic climate of today compared to the time that he served on council.

One of the concessions made by the city was granting the church relief from a condition requiring immediate removal of an unsightly sign on the property. The cost to remove the sign is an estimated $3,500, which the church does not have to spare when considering other move-in costs to be incurred.

Marcy Pharris, Snellville resident and Board of Appeals member, spoke against issuance of the conditional use permit and variances during Monday’s public hearing. Pharris stated that the location of a church in that area of the city is not consistent with Snellville’s long-term planning. In a surprise move, mayor Kelly Kautz agreed with Pharris, saying that she could not support the church’s requests, since the city’s long term land use plan suggests other uses for redevelopment in that area.

Mayor, council butt heads over board nominations

Sparks flew between Kautz some council members Monday over Board of Appeals nominations and approvals for two longstanding board members, Marcy Pharris and Marilyn Swinney. Kautz maintained that she still believes the city charter gives the power of board nominations to the mayor alone, with approval falling to council by majority vote.

Kautz sued four city council members over this matter in the belief that they improperly changed the city charter, and litigation is still pending. Stating that she would not support Pharris’ nomination even if it had been done properly, Kautz said that the city needs new board members who reflect change and diversity, two concepts that she said come council members oppose.

The mayor then instructed a staff member to play a portion of a recording of a recent work session in which mayor pro tem Tom Witts states, in essence, that volunteers who have served the city on such boards for many years should not be protected from being used as political pawns. “I am in no way opposed to racial diversity or any other type of diversity,” Witts said Monday. “In that work session, I was simply trying to protect the people who have served this city for years.”

“I’ve put up 26 nominations that have been voted down by this council, so I stand by my statement,” Kautz said to Witts. When the mayor pro tem disagreed, Kautz told him to check his math.

When city attorney Tony Powell was asked to weigh in on the matter, Kautz reminded him that litigation on the matter is pending.

Despite the implied accusations of opposition to change and diversity, Pharris and Swinney were both confirmed by majority vote to their respective posts on the Board of Appeals.

E-mail now an acceptable form of notice of special called meetings

The city’s Home Rule Ordinance has been amended to allow the use of e-mail as an acceptable means of notification of special called meetings.

9-1-1 workstation purchases approved

Council approved a purchase in the amount of $9683.85 to purchase upgrades to the city’s current computer/radio workstations, and the complete purchase of a third

9-1-1 workstation in preparation for hiring of a third 9-1-1 operator. Councilman Dave Emanuel stated that he hopes and expects the cost will be reimbursed by the SDS settlement reached earlier this year between Gwinnett County and its cities.

Pike and family honored with proclamation

Pete Pike and his family were honored Monday for the entrepreneurship and contribution to the city of Snellville. Kautz read a proclamation that paid tribute to Pete’s 1958 establishment of Pike Family Nursery, and the success and growth of the company that Pike has enjoyed over the years.