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Councilman says dealership jumped zoning gun

By Chris Paschenko
chris@decaturdaily.com 340-2442

A Decatur car dealership is operating on a residential lot ahead of a request before the City Council to rezone the property as a business district, a councilman said Monday.

D&G Auto Sales took over the defunct Audio Video Specialist at 512 Beltline Road S.W. and apparently increased its inventory, which has expanded on residential property owned by Jimmy Johnson Jr. and leased to D&G.

Johnson requested that the council rezone the lot as a business district.

Councilman Ronny Russell, who represents the district, said residents nearby complained to the city's Planning Commission, so he visited the property.

"They're not being a good neighbor," Russell said. "The grass where there are no cars is more than 12 inches high in violation of a city ordinance. The number of cars there have gradually increased, and today the lot looked full."

Russell said he would like to see appropriate screens placed between the business and residences on the predominately commercial highway.

"The zoning doesn't require screening," Russell said, "but I've asked that a barrier be there to protect the residents. Some of those homes have been there for 40 to 50 years. We need to work with residents to find an adequate barrier."

Michelle Jordan, director of the city's Community Development and Planning departments, said a letter should be sent from her office soon, notifying the owner of a weed, junk and litter ordinance that prohibits grass more than 12-inches tall.

Banners at the business are also apparently in violation of the city's sign ordinance, Russell said.

"I think it should be zoned for business," Russell said. "But there needs to be a little latitude when it affects adjoining property."

Jeff Parker, a Realtor who brokered the lease, said he was unaware of conflicting issues and regretted missing Monday's public hearing before the council.

Glen Elrod, owner of D&G, said he was misled into believing the lot in question was zoned for business, and that he soon plans to operate exclusively from a commercial lot south of the building.

Johnson said he didn't know the specifics of the deal or whether Parker knew the lot was zoned residential when it was leased to Elrod.

Parker said the cars on the residential lot are facing away from Beltline Road, so as not to appear to be for sale. Russell said the city's Building Department would investigate the matter.

Elrod said he has leased the property since February and that the city has already informed him of the zoning laws. Elrod said he's awaiting a transport truck to move the cars from the lot.

If the lot were zoned commercial, Parker said he believes Johnson, who owns the lot and building, and Elrod would agree to screens for the business.

"They're reasonable people," Parker said. "Maybe we should start handing out 'move-businesses-out-of-Decatur signs.' "

The council voted to table the zoning request, possibly until June.

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