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DEKALB | 'Undesirable' businesses not welcome in county | Business

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DEKALB | 'Undesirable' businesses not welcome in county

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. -- DeKalb County Commissioner Lee May stood at a busy intersection Friday evening and pointed to what he called undesirable businesses cluttering up, even endangering, the neighborhood.

"You have a liquor store right here, and behind the liquor store you have a grocery store that sells beer and wine.... You have across the street a gas station that sells beer and wine. On the other side of the intersection you have a drug store that sells beer and wine. You have a proliferation of alcohol outlets" at just that one intersection.

And it's a county-wide problem, he said.

This week the county commission approved May's proposal to limit how many additional "undesirable" businesses will be allowed to move into the county, and where they'll be allowed to move in.

From now on in DeKalb, anyone wanting to open up new liquor stores, pawn shops, check cashing stores, drive-through fast-food restaurants, car repair shops and convenience stores -- to name a few of the types of businesses that fall under the new ordinance -- will have to obtain Special Land Use Permits from the county commission, because they are "undesirable," especially when clustered together in one commercial neighborhood.

"I hear that word [undesirable] from a lot of the constituents in South DeKalb, in Lithonia, that there's a proliferation, an over-proliferation, of undesirable businesses," May said. "Studies have shown that a proliferation of those types of establishments in a concentrated area degrades the quality of life in that area. We are really looking to increase the quality of life through this type of building and development that occurs in this area. We want to bring real, nice quality development, economic development, that will bring jobs, create jobs."

The new ordinance targets both small businesses and large corporations that create "undesirable" concentrations of products and services in too small an area.

Commissioner May's example Friday evening:  the intersection where he was standing, showing 11Alive's Jon Shirek the "undesirable" zoning that was approved under the earlier ordinances, was the intersection of Covington Highway and DeKalb Medical Parkway.

The businesses selling alcohol on every corner of that intersection -- legally, of course -- are State Wine and Liquors, a Kroger Supermarket, an Aldi grocery store, a Chevron gas station and convenience store, and a Walgreen's drug store.

The new ordinance that went into effect this week, which empowers the DeKalb County Commission to approve how many of, and where, certain businesses are allowed to open up and operate, from now on, infuriates the manager of a drive-through liquor store near that intersection on Covington Highway where Commissioner May pointed his fingers of condemnation.

"I totally disagree with what the commissioner has been saying," said Prasad Yalamanchili. "The crime can be anywhere. Any person can commit a crime. The crime is done by a person, not by a business."

Yalamanchili was emphatic, though, that, "The business has to be responsible. We need to work with the police force, we need to work with the law enforcement, to make sure that the bad elements are removed. So as a part of the community, the businesses have a responsibility."

Commissioner May said the new, stricter approval process will allow for a lot of community input before the County Commission decides, on a case-by-case basis, whether to allow "those businesses" to move in from now on.

May insisted DeKalb is not trying to interfere with the free market, but only regulate more tightly a segment of the economy through the zoning process.

"We're not preventing any business establishment from opening up. What we're adding is an extra layer of public input and government input as to the type of businesses that are opening and developing in our area."

May estimated that at least 130 new business applications a year will fall under the new, tighter restrictions.