Alarm companies got a stay on being required to pay fines on false alarms in Brookhaven after the City Council decided to hold off enforcement of its new false alarm ordinance.
Council members say they want to wait for a decision in a federal lawsuit filed by alarm companies against the city of Sandy Springs claiming their similar false alarm ordinance is unconstitutional.
Brookhaven’s false alarm ordinance approved by the council last year puts the burden on alarm companies to pay for false alarms; enforcement of the fines to alarm companies was slated to go into effect Sept. 1.
Before the new ordinance, false alarm fines were paid by homeowners and businesses.
Brad Carver, a lobbyist from the alarm industry, spoke during public comment at the council’s Aug. 28 meeting and urged the council to wait 90 days for a decision in the Sandy Springs federal lawsuit.
Councilmember Bates Mattison, who asked discussion of the false alarms be added to the meeting agenda, asked if the city faced litigation if enforcement started Sept. 1. City Attorney Chris Balch said he couldn’t speak for the alarm industry but that it was a likely probability.
Carver asked the council to look at an ordinance the alarm industry has drafted and adopted by cities throughout Georgia, including Dunwoody. Dunwoody’s ordinance requires alarm owners to register their systems with the city and pay fines after several false alarms.
Balch explained Brookhaven’s ordinance, heavily modeled on Sandy Springs’ ordinance, puts the burden of finding ways to fix false alarms on the industry rather than the users.
“Our ordinance says the burden is on the alarm industry and it is their responsibility to train users,” Balch said. “Their ordinance shifts the burden back to police.”
Balch said the police department then has to use its police resources responding to false alarms and training the public how to use alarms.
In a report last year from Chief Gary Yandura, Brookhaven Police officers responded to 4,145 false alarms between July 31, 2016 and July 31, 2017. Cost to the city to respond to the false alarms was $194,815, he said.
Mattison said he hoped a 90-day delay would “hopefully prevent litigation.”
City Manager Christian Sigman told the council there was no guarantee the federal judge’s ruling in the Sandy Spring lawsuit would come in 90 days.
“That’s just comments made by a lobbyist in a public meeting,” he said.
“It’s not uncommon when a city makes regulatory changes to have them litigated,” he added.
Mattison said he wanted to learn more about the “model” ordinance other cities have passed.
Councilmember Linley Jones said she wanted the city to “exercise a little bit of patience” and wait for the outcome of the Sandy Springs lawsuit is before enforcing their own ordinance.
And while Councilmember John Park said he supported the ordinance as written, he also voted to delay enforcement.
Councilmember Joe Gebbia was absent.