By Jason Wright / Appen Newspapers
July 27, 2009
It took nearly an hour and a half of conversation and roughly four months of deferrals, but by a 4-3 vote July 20 Milton's City Council approved a use permit for a longtime Birmingham Highway landscaper.
The situation began in January when Robb Nestor's American Gardens, which has been on Ga. 372 for 15 years, was cited by a Milton code enforcement officer who noticed it didn't have the appropriate permits to operate.
Nestor, who said he had no idea he was operating illegally because he'd always worked with Fulton County, had to apply for the permit. County business license records forwarded to Milton in its early days apparently didn't include Nestor's business.
"I'm not surprised the county suddenly realized you had a business when you've had a business license for 15 years," said Councilwoman Karen Thurman. "That happens at Fulton."
Nestor's current set up meant he also needed variances to Milton's zoning laws — an original one for business access to Taylor Road, since Birmingham Highway is a state road requiring Ga. Department of Transportation (GDOT) approval — and two newer ones for existing greenhouses encroaching into city-regulated shielding areas.
City staff recommended denial of the greenhouse variances because they violated the strict letter of the law. Milton's Planning Commission, however, saw the grey area — moving the greenhouses, which are made of glass and weren't minded by neighbors, could be a huge hassle — and recommended approval of everything.
As part of the deal, Nestor agreed to deed restrict the land so no larger businesses could be built there.
Council was split on the issue and showed signs of what a few at the meeting called "deja vu" — meaning the marked infighting that plagued the group in its infancy.
Councilman Alan Tart, who had voiced his opposition to the permit since April, told Nestor he was approaching the case as if it were a new business. As such, he suggested Nestor didn't need the access to Taylor Road and should deal with GDOT on Birmingham Road.
"You get more state and city people involved and you have to spend more money," said Nestor. "I just can't afford it."
Tart was joined in his opposition to the variance for Taylor Road by councilwomen Tina D'Aversa and Julie Zahner Bailey. Both said they had received parental concerns that Nestor's two trucks on Taylor Road would be a hazard for nearby children.
The rest of council disagreed."We're missing the forest for the trees," said Councilman Burt Hewitt. "We're getting pretty good things, good restrictions, by allowing this access to a local road."
Lockwood concurred."I don't know if I would ask my worst enemy to get involved with GDOT," he said.
Zahner Bailey tried to defer to the case for GDOT input and because the night's meeting agenda did not list all the variances. The motion was denied 4-3. Hewitt then moved to approve following all of Planning Commission's recommendations, which passed.
"I can appreciate their thorough consideration," said a clearly relieved Nestor. "That's why I live here."