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Posted: June 5, 2014 10:00 p.m.

County mulls in-home daycares, catering licenses

County officials are going to consider re-allowing in-home day cares and allowing caterers to serve alcohol in the county at special events, after two residents brought up the issues at the May 6 meeting.

In-home day cares

Newton County used to allow day cares in homes, but commissioners voted in 2008 to outlaw day cares in residential zonings, according to Jenny Carter with the county attorney’s office.

Prior to the change, here is what Newton County allowed:

• For one to two children, there were no county regulations

• For three to six children, day care operators had to meet certain county requirements to get authorization from the county

• For seven to 12 children, day care operators had to receive a conditional use permit

Carter said she believed the Board of Commissioners voted in 2008 to outlaw residential day care centers because there were concerns about the largest centers, those with seven to 12 children, creating too much traffic, noise and safety issues in residential areas.

Newton County resident Steve Fritz spoke to the board at its May 6 meeting and asked why the law was changed. He said his wife has been watching children for more than 30 years and he and his were disappointed to learn about the local law change.

Fritz said the change is forcing many people to watch children illegally in order to make it financially worth it. He also said the county is losing out on revenue.

Carter looked at several other surrounding governments and found that most allowed residential day cares for at least six children and under, including Covington and Henry, Jasper, Morgan, Rockdale and Walton counties. Jasper and Morgan counties also allow residential day cares with seven or more children.

Carter said there were some common requirements among the ordinances of other governments, including requiring that day cares:

• Be licensed by the state

• Maintain their residential appearance

• Not have any signage for the day care

• Have a minimum-size fenced play area

• Have a paved driveway

• Be occupied by a resident at all times

• Pass a fire marshal inspection and have a sprinkler system

Commissioner Nancy Schulz agreed with limiting the size of residential day cares saying the day cares should not be to make a lot of money but to serve children.

Commissioner Lanier Sims said he has had many residents tell him they would get licensed by the state and then go to get a county business license only to be told day cares weren’t allowed; he said he was happy the board was at least looking at the issue.

Commissioner John Douglas asked the county attorney’s office and county staff to come back to the board with a proposed ordinance.

Catering licenses

Local restaurant owner Susan Kirk, who owns Scoops and Just Dogs in Covington, asked the Board of Commissioners May 6 to consider allowing businesses that already have a restaurant license to be able to serve beer and wine when they cater private events in the county.

Kirk said Covington recently amended its ordinances to allow such catering.

Kirk said she was contacted to cater a customer appreciation event for Fat Boys Golf Cart but wasn’t able to serve alcohol on a private property in the county because of the county laws.

According to Carter, if the county wanted to begin allowing alcohol to be served at private events, it would have to change county laws to allow a catering license. Under state law, both package stores and restaurants with alcohol-by-the-drink licenses would be able to get a catering license.

Those businesses would then be able to get an event permit to cater an event with alcohol, which is also allowed under state law. For businesses that don’t have a business license through the county, like Kirk’s businesses, they would still be allowed to get an event permit if they had a valid alcohol license through another government.

State law says that an event permit fee of $50 may be collected and local excise taxes may be collected.

Carter said the county could add several other stipulations to any ordinance allowing private events to serve alcohol, including limiting the hours alcohol can be served, limiting the type of events where it can be sold and even requiring a specific ratio of the total cost of food compared to the total cost of alcohol. This last item, the ratio of food to drink, is often used by governments to regulate restaurants, ensuring they don’t become bars by requiring them to make a certain percentage of money, often 50 percent or more, on food.

Carter said Glynn County had a good ordinance. Douglas asked a proposed ordinance to be brought before the board for this item as well.

However, Douglas said he thinks such an ordinance, if passed, should apply to the entire county, not just the overlay zoning districts the county is implementing in the county’s existing commercial areas. When the county passed alcohol-by-the-drink for restaurants, it limited that to only specific zoning overlays. There is currently an overlay in the Almon and Salem road corridors; another one is being created in the Brick Store area, where U.S. 278 meets Ga. Highway 11 and County Road 229.

Commissioner Lanier Sims said the county may want to consider re-examining limiting alcohol-by-the-drink to zoning overlays, because the issue could “blow up in our face at some point.”

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