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City Council meets together on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021.

City Council: Body discusses 2022 fee increases, possible hearing for Uptown business liquor permit

Athens City Council discussed increasing some of its 2022 city fees during committee meetings Monday, some of which have not been adjusted in at least a decade.  

Former acting Service Safety Director Tom Pyle suggested several months ago the city comb through its code and review all of the administrative fees within it. So far, the process has taken about a month. In tandem with that review, Council will introduce six ordinances during the week of Oct. 18, and an overview of the ordinances was given Monday evening. 

Some of the ordinances will also help consolidate city code in instances where language is repeated, Council President Chris Knisely said. 

An ordinance that will be introduced by Councilwoman Chris Fahl, D-4th Ward, would increase the yard waste fee from $1.50 to $2, Knisely said. The processions and parades permit fee will also be set to $200, and a new rental property transfer flat fee will be $30.  

When a rental property is bought from the property owner, papers and a rental fee need to be transferred from the old owner to the new one, and the new transfer fee will cover that cost, Knisely said.

The ordinances will include other fee increases, such as motorcycle parking sticker costs increasing from $20 to $40, the violation for 72-hour restricted parking increasing from $20 to $35, overtime parking fees increasing from $10 to $15 and residential base sewer rates increasing from $5.55 per month to $5.72 per month.

Councilman Sam Crowl, D-3rd Ward, said he believes the motorcycle parking sticker costs have not gone up in about 25 years, and Fahl said additional fees have not been changed in over 10 years. 

“We have really competitive rates at that point … when you're looking at Logan and Lancaster,” Fahl said. “I think that we get a good deal, and that the raises of fees is to make sure that (Athens residents) continue getting the services they need.”

Some council members had reservations about increases. Councilwoman Arian Smedley, D-1st Ward, said parades are sometimes much smaller than events such as the Homecoming parade and wondered if parade fees could be evaluated on a case-by-case basis instead.

Crowl said he heard complaints from one resident about the motorcycle parking stickers. The resident told Crowl he likely would not purchase a parking sticker anymore because of the increase. The resident was confused on what the original fee cost, but said because the fee was doubling, he would likely park Uptown and pay the meter with quarters, something he deems to be more cost effective in the end. 

Crowl said he would be interested to see how many people purchase a motorcycle permit each year in response to those concerns.

In addition to discussing fees, Council revisited the announcement of a liquor permit request for Boozy Bubbles LLC, 18 S. Court St., which is the location of Bubbles Tea and Juice Company.

Boozy Bubbles applied to the Division of Liquor Control for a D3 license, and some council members showed concern over the fine details of the permit and a possible need for a hearing.

Knisely said some of the concern comes from the fact that Bubbles sells its tea products in plastic cups. If someone were to walk out of Bubbles with an alcoholic beverage sold in a similar cup, it could create issues, as Athens’ Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area, which allows patrons to carry alcoholic beverages outdoors within a designated area in the city, is not currently operating, she said.

Crowl also pointed out there are two business spaces inside of 18 S. Court St. — Bubbles and Firdous Express — which complicates the situation and could warrant further examination of Boozy Bubbles’ application. 

Knisely said the body will gather more information this week to read and review before possibly moving forward with a motion to request a hearing.

Council also heard a presentation from Third Sun Solar about a proposed solar array. The array would have a targeted construction ending in October 2022. Potential sites include the Athens library, Athens dog park, the Athens Community Center roof and Athens canopy pool. 

“I think that we need to look at this as one of the things that we do — along with the other things that we've been doing for years — making the city sustainable and resilient,” Fahl said. “And I think resilience is essential.”

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