With little discussion, the Sandy Springs City Council unanimously approved a previously controversial measure that legalizes a backyard swim business at its July 17 meeting.
Allison Dubovsky operates Swim with Allison in the pool behind her house at 640 Weatherly Lane, in a cul-de-sac in the exclusive Riverside neighborhood. The city revoked her business license in January after Reed Haggard, who sits on the city’s planning commission and is Dubovsky’s neighbor, realized the business is illegal. He asked city staff about it and they revoked her license after mistakenly approving it for four years.
The city council approved the text amendment with a 5-0 vote. Councilmember Andy Bauman was absent.
Dubovksy’s fight to legalize her business drew hundreds of supporters who spoke at city meetings and signed petitions. They made claims children would die if Swim with Allison was not allowed to continue operating.
The city council asked in March for city staff to write legislation narrowly tailored to serve Swim with Allison’s needs. That proposal was then sent to the Sandy Springs Planning Commission, which overwhelming voted to recommend the city council deny it.
City Attorney Dan Lee and Mayor Rusty Paul had argued against creating a special code for the business, saying it could have unintended consequences.
Paul maintained that stance after the city council’s vote to approve and said he didn’t speak during the meeting because everyone already knew how he felt.
“My concern is we may be creating new problems we didn’t anticipate,” Paul said. “I don’t think you should create public policy for one example.”
Paul said he believes the city made a promise to neighborhoods in the “Next Ten” Comprehensive Plan, the city’s 10-year planning vision, to protect neighborhoods from development and other changes that could take away from the residential experience, which allowing an outdoor business could do, he said.
The proposal makes outdoor businesses a conditional use – meaning a permit, plans and public meetings would be required – in single-family residential zoning districts. Only “educational,” “recreational” or “instructional” businesses would be allowed, only operating in the side or back yards, and with no employees except residents of the house. “Nuisances” and unusual “machinery” would be banned. A minimum of four on-site parking spaces would be required, along with fencing or other screening.
The businesses could have a maximum of two students at any one time and a maximum of four per hour. The businesses could operate up to six hours per day within certain hours: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays; and no Sunday or holiday hours.
If the business had children students, general American Red Cross safety certification would be required; and swimming certification from a similar organization would be required for businesses like Swim With Allison.
The council voted after hearing public comment from Dubovsky and two other residents who argued the council should approve the measure. No one spoke against it.
Sarah Kogen argued that children are more likely to drown learning to swim in a community pool rather a private one.
“It’s in our city’s and the community’s best interest to continue to allow Allison to teach lifesaving lessons from her home,” Kogen said.
Another resident said, “I understand the noise complaint, but to be honest we live in a city.”
Dubovsky thanked the city staff for working on the measure, but asked that it be amended to allow hours beyond typical business hours to allow working parents time to bring their children for a lesson.
After the council vote, the audience, which was comprised mostly of people attending to support Dubovsky, applauded and cheered.