NPU-B plans to form a special committee to discuss a proposal to make it easier to sell beer and wine along Peachtree Road in Buckhead.

The proposed change to the distance requirements between single-family residences and beer and wine retailers would most immediately affect a bid Total Wine to open a store in Buckhead Square Shopping Center.  However, procedural concerns and resident questions about the long-term ramifications of the change have spurred concerns.

In April, board members of the neighborhood planning unit voted to support legislation by Atlanta City Council to loosen restrictions on beer and wine sales along Peachtree Road.  The vote, however, was contingent on any such legislation winning the support of residents of Peachtree Park and other affected neighborhoods. Then once drafted, the proposal was to come back before the NPU.

Instead, legislation sponsored by City Councilman Howard Shook to change distance requirements between beer and wine vendors and residential properties appeared on the council’s  agenda shortly after the NPU gave its support to the concept.

“I was pretty shocked to see a draft ordinance had already been introduced to City Council,” NPU-B board member, Jim Cosgrove told the May 7 NPU-B board meeting.  “It was this board’s understanding that this was a vote on a general receptiveness to hear this proposal.”

NPU-B Chair Andrea Bennett said she wrote Shook as soon as she saw the legislation had been brought to the council. “I said that we do not support it and asked that it be withdrawn or held,” Bennett told residents and NPU-B board members.”

The legislation has since been held by the council.  Both Cosgrove and Bennett say they had no wish to point fingers regarding the miscommunication.  However, they were quick to absolve Shook of doing anything wrong.

“Councilman Shook has been very cooperative,” said Cosgrove.  “Nobody had to argue with him [about stopping the legislation].”

Attorney Kevin Leff told NPU board members that he had sent the draft legislation to Shook’s office after the board’s April meeting.  However, he assured the NPU board members that he had not misrepresented the group’s support for the legislation.

“We just sent a draft in to Howard to look at,” Leff said.  “There was no intention of duping anybody by slipping legislation in through the back door.  We’ve been talking to the neighborhood for close to two years about it.”

Leff said he would be happy to submit a request for a spot exemption for Total Wine, if residents opposed a blanket change along Peachtree Road.

In addition to the procedural complaints, both NPU board members and residents at the meeting voiced their concerns about impact of the changes in the proposed ordinance.

“It’s entirely too vague,” said Kathy Muzzy, President of the Peachtree Park Civic Association. “I think this opens up a lot of possibilities It needs to be tightened up and made more specific.”

Lisa Morchower, a lawyer with Berman Fink Van Horn, was also at the Tuesday meeting.  She says she represents residents and businesses within NPU-B who don’t want to see alcohol sales move closer to residences.

“I’d like to see it not happen,” she said of the draft legislation.  “But if it does happen, I want to see it totally redone.”

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Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.