Dunwoody passed a text amendment to ban party houses at its Monday city council meeting, but some council members expressed hope that staff would consider making penalties more severe in the future.
The council first saw the text amendment at a December 2021 meeting. The amendment would ban commercial events or “party houses” in residential districts and require a special administrative permit for any event held in a commercial district.
The item was originally on the consent agenda for the Jan. 10 meeting, but Councilmember Stacey Harris asked to move the item so that council could discuss the amendment. Harris had concerns that the maximum penalty for a party house – a fine of $1,000 and up to six months in jail – wouldn’t be strict enough.
“One thousand dollars is nothing to these people,” Harris said. “Why aren’t we doing a concurrent text amendment to up the punitive damage?”
City Attorney Bill Riley said while the city could not expand the maximum punishment for a misdemeanor charge, they could set thresholds for the minimum punishment, such as jail time for a first offense, at the judge’s discretion.
“You wouldn’t box yourself into some potential case [where] you didn’t want somebody to go to jail,” Riley said. “But you would always have that as the baseline of what your expectation is.”
The council passed the ordinance in the interest of banning party houses quickly, but Harris said she wanted the staff to add more in terms of penalties. Mayor Lynn Deutsch said she would like city staff to look into penalizing the owners of the houses as opposed to the party hosts.
“We have to hold ultimately the owner accountable,” Deutsch said.