Road name, pawn shop regs changed

Updated - 07.27.15

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent

Some residents at the far northern end of Henry County will be changing their addresses.

In the wake of recent roadwork surrounding West Panola Road, the Henry County Board of Commissioners voted July 7 to change the name of a portion of that road to West Village Parkway.

The change will affect the western portion of the road, beginning at the Clayton County line and extending to the new road spur recently built extending north to Fairview Road at the site of the planned medical complex to be developed there. That new road already carries the new name.

The remainder of West Panola Road, going east to East Atlanta Road, will not change its name.

The staff presentation suggested that the move was at the behest of Commissioner Bruce Holmes, for public safety reasons and “to better exemplify the kind of upscale business district planned for the Fairview area,” as well as to “assist with rebranding and marketing of the community to future businesses.”

Holmes pointed out that the name change was not his idea but that he was contacted by county staff who indicated that public safety personnel were having difficulties because of confusion over the new road.

The county’s transportation department notified affected property owners by mail and also advertised the matter with signage in the area.

Two residents spoke at the meeting in opposition to the request. The main issue for both of them was the hassle of changing their addresses.

“I’m not opposed to development up there,” said one resident. “If it means we have to change our address, I’m opposed.”

Another opponent identified herself as a 60-year resident of her property and said it would be “a lot of trouble” for her and her neighbors to make all of the necessary changes.

There was no discussion among the commissioners, and the motion to change the road name passed 4-2 with Chairman Tommy Smith and Commissioner Gary Barham voting against it without comment.

In other business, the board changed some of the regulations regarding pawn shops in the unincorporated county. The new resolution will place more restrictions on where new pawn shops can be opened.

Commissioner Blake Prince recused himself from the discussion of this item, saying that one of his business clients is a pawn shop owner.

County planning and zoning director Daunte Gibbs said surrounding jurisdictions were researched in preparation for this item, and among other things his office learned that Clayton County has 36 pawn shops at last count, while unincorporated Henry County now has seven. That number cannot increase under the new regulations until a significant population increase occurs in the county.

“We want to avoid that spillover,” said Holmes, who added that more crime and lower property taxes come with pawn shops.

Several residents spoke in favor of the new resolution and no one from the audience spoke against it.

The new regulations limit the unincorporated county to one pawn shop per 21,182 residents according to the latest Atlanta Regional Commission estimates. No applications for new establishments will be accepted by the county as long as it is at its maximum, which it is right now. Also, pawn shops cannot be located within 1,000 feet of each other, and if applications are accepted but the total would exceed the county’s maximum, the business license department would conduct a lottery to determine which application is accepted.

Elton Alexander, a member of the county’s zoning advisory board, spoke in favor of the regulations. He said current businesses “have every right to exist” but the county doesn’t want or need “saturation” in this area, as it can be an eyesore to the community in some areas. He included payday loan establishments in that description.

Steve Cash, director of the Henry Council for Quality Growth, thanked the board for its action, calling it “very necessary” and saying that his organization supports it 100 percent.

Smith was the lone voice in the other direction.

“My opinion hasn’t changed. This is America,” said Smith. “The government can set up the rules and regulations, but as far as prohibiting a certain kind of business in America, that is totally unacceptable.”

He cast the lone dissenting vote on the motion, which passed 4-1 with Prince’s abstention.