By curbing a parking issue, Rockdale County officials believe it will have a ripple effect in solving public safety issues brought by properties throughout Rockdale County being rented out for large, raucous parties.
One such property in the East Irwin Estates subdivision was of great concern to Rockdale County officials recently. During a Tuesday morning work session, Chief of Staff Gerald Sanders said the property had been advertised online as a vacation rental home and was booked every weekend up until October of this year.
Last month, two Sheriff’s Office reports were filed by a neighbor who stated that an all-weekend birthday bash was taking place at 2531 Old Salem Road, in East Irwin Estates, and the partygoers were being noisy.
The reckless parking of the partygoers was also brought to the attention of officials by homeowners in the subdivision.
Officials Crack Down
Obstructive parking could create driving problems for residents and pose a threat to emergency vehicles attempting to get through the aforementioned subdivision and Old Salem Estates, which is connected to East Irwin Estates.
“We’re certainly not advocating today that there’s something wrong with an individual or an investor owning rental property,” Sanders said to the commissioners. “However we are against the idea — and I’m sure the community feels the same as I do — that if you rent your house or own property, you have to abide by our zoning codes and ordinances that govern how these properties can be lived in.”
The investor of the property has been cited for a zoning violation and operating a business without a license, according to Planning and Development Director Marshall Walker.
Sanders said that four of the investor’s properties were advertised online on the same website. As of Thursday afternoon, Amir Bazak, manager of A.R.A. 1 LLC, still has four properties listed as vacation rentals on the website homeaway.com. Each listing states in all capital letters that no parties are allowed on premises.
The company A.R.A. 1 has owned the property at 2531 Old Salem Circle since September 2012. The company also owns nine other properties in Rockdale County.
Another company, Malbez L.L.C., also owns a property in Rockdale and has the same mailing address as A.R.A. 1.
Residents Seek Help
A female resident of Old Salem Estates, who attended the meeting Tuesday, said that these unruly parties have been happening every weekend since April. At first, she thought it was just her neighbors having a get-together.
“I would hear loud music, but I would just dismiss it because I thought it was my neighbors,” she said. “Then I started seeing trash left in my yard and thought, ‘OK, these are not my neighbors.’”
Frustrated from months of picking up trash from her yard left by the revelers after every weekend, on July 18, at the start of a three-day birthday party event, she shot a video of the parking situation that was happening in her neighborhood.
The video shows a long line on cars tightly parked together along the streets of the subdivision. She estimated there were 75 to 80 cars that night. The resident said she received calls from her neighbors stating that they couldn’t go out to dinner because cars were blocking their driveway.
A deputy report was filed by a neighbor of the 2531 Old Salem property July 18. In it, the neighbor states there was an advertisement online promoting the party and that he was fearful that someone would get hurt.
Another deputy report from the night of July 19 states the dispatched officer observed approximately 30 cars parked along the street but they weren’t obstructing the flow of traffic nor were they blocking any driveways.
The report also states that the deputy didn’t see any violations and that there was no loud noise in the area.
The resident then posted the video she shot online and sent it to Rockdale County’s top officials, including the board of commissioners, the sheriff’s office and the code enforcement office, thinking a video of what was happening in her area would get the ball rolling on changes that needed to be made.
New Parking Laws To Increase Public’s Safety
Rockdale County officials are now proposing changes to the local parking ordinance that will allow for more immediate action to take place should someone violate the law.
Under the proposed ordinance, if law enforcement deems a parked vehicle is a danger to public safety, the officers have to track down the car owner and then give the owner an opportunity to move the vehicle. Should the owners refuse to move their vehicle or if the owner cannot be located, the officers can have the vehicle towed.
Rockdale County Sheriff Office Chief Deputy Scott Freeman said the proposed changes are to avoid a tragedy from happening in the future.
“From the public safety perspective, not a law enforcement perspective, we have to be very cognizant about the need for law enforcement vehicles, fire units, fire apparatus, and EMS units to be able to get to all the areas of our residential areas, businesses when emergency services are needed,” he said to the Rockdale Board of Commissioners during a Tuesday morning work session meeting. “If vehicles move into a neighborhood and there’s a large assemblage of vehicles and they’re parking on the side of the road and they’re double parking in the area that creates a significant safety concern.”
Parking has been a cause for concern in some areas of the county recently and Freeman says at times some patrol units were unable to get to locations to respond to fights and other disturbances because of obstructive park vehicles.
If a police vehicle wasn’t able to get through, said Freeman, then larger fire and EMS vehicles certainly wouldn’t have been able to pass.
“We have an obligation to keep those roads clear,” said Freeman. “It’s only going to take one time for a fire apparatus or EMS unit to not be able to get to an area and one person could lose their life and I do not want that to happen.”
The new county ordinance will almost mirror the City of Conyers parking ordinance with some differences to address specific county needs. City officials had to deal with a similar situation in November 2010 when a party got out-of-hand and left one teenager dead from a gunshot and two minors injured from shots as well.
Dequavious Stephon Mapp, 18, a student at Rockdale County High School, was shot in the abdomen and died from his injuries after being lifeflighted to Atlanta Medical hospital.
According to Conyers Police, the victims were bystanders, as far as investigators knew.
Freeman was a Conyers Police official at that time and says the new city parking rules were highly successful after implantation.
“If we address the vehicle problem,” said Freeman, “it has been my experience with the city that we can effectively eliminate another problem by addressing a currently problem that we have in public safety.”
Rockdale County Sheriff Eric Levett spoke briefly to the commissioners and wanted to reiterate that the sheriff’s office is working diligently with the code enforcement office and the homeowners of the subdivision to fix the situation and keep the citizens safe.
“We don’t want to have any type of tragedy we are seeing around in other counties,” he said. “We’re going to continue to strive to make Rockdale County safe.”
The board will vote on the proposed parking law changes at its regular meeting beginning at 10 a.m. on Aug. 12 in the Assembly Hall building, 901 Main Street, Conyers.