By John Schaffner
Two large and loud illegal parties held in million-dollar homes in Sandy Springs during the holidays drew hundreds of revelers and the wrath of the city’s police, fire and code enforcement departments, and at least one municipal court judge.
The party promoters and property owners have been cited for breaking several laws, including operating a commercial venture in a residential neighborhood without a license and disturbing the peace.
The promoter of the first party, Anthony Epps, and John M. Rochetti, the owner of a home located on Powers Ferry Road inside the perimeter, appeared in Sandy Springs City Court Jan. 7 and were fined $13,500, stemming from an Oct. 31 Halloween party.
Sandy Springs Police shut down the party in the early-morning hours of Nov. 1 following neighborhood complaints of loud noises and hundreds of people walking the streets while waiting to enter.
Apparently news of the arrests from that party were not heeded by another party promoter and the owner of a property at 645 Londonberry Road, just around the corner from the location of the first party.
Police were called to the Londonberry Road home just after midnight on Jan. 1 to break up a party with an estimated 500-700 people, a DJ spinning music and fireworks. Sandy Springs police and fire personnel responded to complaints from neighbors about the fireworks and found the same type of violations that had existed with the October party.
After spending almost two hours emptying the house of partygoers, police charged Magid A. Girgis, son of the out-of-state owners of the Londonberry Road home, and event promoter Krista Renee Gable, with maintaining a disorderly house pending further charges. The two were transported to the jail in Doraville.
At both parties, what Sandy Springs police and fire officials found were hundreds of people who had paid an admittance fee to attend. According to police, that constitutes operating a commercial venture in a residential neighborhood and neither of the parties had a license for that purpose.
In addition, in both cases, cars were illegally parked on both sides of the streets, blocking access for emergency vehicles and causing a safety hazard. The number of people in the homes exceeded safety occupancy laws.
During their Jan. 7 city court trial, Epps, promoter for the Halloween party, and Rochetti, owner of the home on Powers Ferry Road where it was held, were fined $9,000 and $3,000 respectively, as well as an additional $1,500 levied as restitution for hours of out-of-service time on the part of Sandy Springs Police and Fire/Rescue units.
Public safety personnel spent more than 4½ hours on the scene directing partygoers from the home and back to a nearby shopping center, from where many had taken shuttles to the party. Epps and Rochetti each pled no contest to a number of charges brought to the court by Code Enforcement officers in conjunction with the Police and Fire Departments.
“This clearly shows that we take these violations seriously. Creating and operating a commercial establishment without permits and within our residential neighborhoods will not be tolerated,” said Sandy Springs Police Chief Terry Sult.
Chief Sult personally responded to Londonberry Road after hearing the details of the incident. He reported to City Council members that, when he arrived on the scene, he “observed a scene very similar as that on Halloween. The roadway was blocked by cars parked on both sides of the road and spilling over into some side streets. A shuttle was running from the Publix [shopping center] to the party. There was security and parking attendants and the 11,000 square foot house was full with a line waiting up the long driveway.” Sult said the crowd was estimated as larger than the one on Halloween.
“The organizers were charging $20 per person at the door,” Sult reported. “Alcohol and food were included in the cover charge. Wrist bands were used to help control access.” He said the house is for sale for $3.4 million and is owned by the contractor who built the house in 2008. Sult explained that the son of the owner “advised that he leased the house to a ‘reality TV’ personality whose promotion/ marketing company advertised the party. He advised that he was to be paid and that he also would be able to market the house during the party by passing out flyers.”
Sult reported that both the owner’s son and the TV personality were charged with “maintaining a disorderly house pending further investigation.”
Although Sult reported that the organizers and crowd were mostly cooperative, two police cars received key scratches as the partygoers left. Cost of those repairs will be determined and added to the cost of police and fire personnel as restitution from the promoter and home owner.
Sandy Springs Deputy Solicitor Don Henderson said, “The Solicitor’s Office views the charges as very significant. We have worked closely with the Sandy Springs Police Department and Code Enforcement Division to enhance public safety. The Solicitor’s Office seeks to deter this conduct in the future as it poses a risk to property as well as life safety.”
“Individuals who want to have a large event should contact us first,” said Nancy Leathers, Sandy Springs Community Development Director. “They should come to the city and we can walk them through the special event permitting process. It will save them trouble and needless expenses in the long run.”
A special event “short form” permit also is available online at www.sandyspringsga.org. The regular special event permit may be obtained at Sandy Springs City Hall at 7840 Roswell Road, Bldg 500. For more information call 770-730-5600.