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Zoning question tabled at city council
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The owner of a well-regarded local company begged the Conyers City Council on Jan. 21 not to enforce zoning codes that, he said, will put him out of business with "doomsday restrictions."

With some councilmen calling the fate of Rockland Cargo Equipment a tougher decision than the complicated and controversial Four A project zoning, the council decided to table a vote until Feb. 4. That will give the city and the business more time to explore a possible win-win solution.

Owner Ronald Ayers aims to expand his trailer-selling business at 1532 Old McDonough Highway by purchasing a half-acre parking lot from the adjacent Discover Point Church. That will allow him to increase inventory to boost business and compete with giant chains, he said.

The problem is, his business is a non-conforming use grandfathered into the Gateway Village rezoning carried out in 2012. Expanding a non-conforming use is virtually never allowed-the goal is for them to locate elsewhere-and city planners recommended denial.

Rockland Cargo opened in a different Conyers location in 1993, but has been on Old McDonough Highway through two rezonings. Ayers said he was never notified about the Gateway Village rezoning. He proposed several changes to the code to allow his business to expand, and church pastor Philip Lehman was there to support him.

"To hobble a surviving business of 22 years is counterproductive" to Conyers' economy, Ayers said.

Planning officials did not speak in response, but their written decision, provided to the News, shows they are concerned with setting a dangerous precedent that could attract less beloved businesses.

Councilman Cleveland Stroud called it a classic case of his head and heart being in conflict, and the rest of the council agreed. Councilman John Fountain said he's one of the company's customers, and Councilman Vince Evans said he has known the Ayers family for 20 years. While they were wary of setting a bad precedent, they also wanted further discussions about any possible loophole.

"Most of us are business people here," said Mayor Mills. "I understand exactly where you're coming from, "I think it's worth taking another stab at it."

In other council business:

-A Conyers Police dog killed in a recent horrific incident was paid tribute by the council and a huge crowd of police officers and Police Explorers program youths.

The dog, Brody, lived with K-9 Officer John Bobo at his Jasper County home. On Dec. 23, Brody got into a fight with four wild coyotes and suffered fatal injuries, despite Bobo leaping in to break it up. Police Chief Gene Wilson called the loss of the well-liked dog "traumatic for all of us." A tribute video featuring images of Brody set to the theme of the TV show "Cops," among other music, was played, and Bobo was given several gifts, including a portrait painting of the dog.

-United Maintenance, Inc. of Atlanta was approved as the winning bidder to provide heating and air conditioning system maintenance and repair to various city facilities, including City Hall, the Cherokee Run Golf Club and the Georgia International Horse Park. The contract will pay $3,085 per quarter, with an hourly repair rate of $91 and a $115 per hour overtime rate.

-The council approved an agreement to reimburse the county up to $1 million for the Sigman Road widening project, provided the 2016 SPLOST passes. That amount is in addition to a previous reimbursement of up to $200,000 taken from current SPLOST funds.

-Candidate qualifying fees for this fall's City Council election were set at $72.

-A tiny tweak to the city sidewalk right-of-way at the Corner Market at Flat Shoals and Parker Roads was approved. Recent changes ended up making the right-of-way about 1 inch wider, officials said, and Corner Market LLC agreed to convey that tiny strip for a nominal $1 payment.

-A beer and wine consumption on premises license was approved for Just Loaf'n (applicant DeNyne Williams/Taste of the Trucks LLC), 1410 Klondike Road, Suite C.

-Scott Hartsell and Alec Smith were appointed to the Conyers Main Streets board for a one-year term. LaRuth Stowe was reappointed to the Conyers Housing Authority Board of Commissioners for a term running to September 2019.

-Several police officers were given commendations for capturing suspects in burglaries and robberies. The officers included Sgt. Jarrett Norton, Cpl. Shyra Hardwick and Officers Brian Kirby and Jerahmy Williams. Several officers received commendations for contributions to department training programs, including Sgt. Jay Archer and Officers Chase Bagwell, John Bobo and Craig Cannon.