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Flowery Branch City Council split on business license flap
Auction and Antiques required to address parking, stormwater drainage
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Flowery Branch Auction and Antiques has until March 1 to have in hand city-approved plans that adequately address parking and stormwater drainage issues.

City Council reached that 3-2 decision Thursday night after a contentious debate on whether to pull the shop's business license.

Council members Amanda Swafford and Chris Fetterman voted against the deadline, insisting that the city back off the issue, while Mayor Mike Miller and council members Tara Richards and Joe Anglin voted for it.

City officials had recommended revoking the license.

James Riker, the city planner, said the city has gone back and forth with the property owner, John Bailey, and the business' owner, Tom Shulte, for 18 months, "asking that those improvements be made."

At the outset, Bailey said he would improve the property, but nothing has been done to date.

"It's very common that when they have auctions, there's a randomness to the parking field, with people parked all over the property — in some cases, outside any acceptable parking areas," Riker said.

"... And obviously the condition of the lot isn't anywhere near acceptable," he added, displaying pictures of the property at 5540 Atlanta Highway.

Shulte said he couldn't understand why the two sides couldn't negotiate "something ... that will satisfy both parties."

"I need to stay in business, folks," he told the council. "That's all I am asking. I'm being held hostage here on my business license, and it's a tough spot."

Shulte said that revoking his license would result in shutting down 50 dealers.

"We have an auction every Monday with at least 60-65 people (in attendance), and I'm sure they spend money around Flowery Branch," he said.

The business also sponsors a monthly show that draws up to 1,500 people.

"I've got to tell you, I haven't received one complaint about the parking lot," Shulte said.

Swafford said the council should factor in its decision that the issue hasn't gained any public traction.

Early on, "I just didn't get the sense that there was any urgency from anybody other than the council to get anything done" with the property, she said.

"And as much as we'd like to have a perfect city and see things the way we want them, we represent the people."

Fetterman said the economic void left by the business' potential closing was his "biggest concern."

"And yet we're going to force somebody to do something that doesn't really affect the safety of Flowery Branch citizens," he said.

Richards said the city staff was simply doing their jobs, enforcing zoning ordinances that were created by the city council, albeit a previous group of elected officials.

"We can't randomly enforce (ordinances)," she said. "... You can't suddenly say we're no longer enforcing (them). We have to be consistent with the precedents we set."

Anglin agreed on that point, adding, "How do you keep new businesses accountable if you don't enforce things that are on the books?"

The property's issues are "a blatant problem, (they've) been brought to our attention and we can do something about it or stick our heads in the sand," he said.

If the auction business doesn't get approved plans by March 1, city officials then could report the missed deadline to city council and decide at that time whether the business license should be revoked, City Attorney Ron Bennett said after the meeting.