Acting to assist local businesses harmed by the coronavirus pandemic, the Dunwoody City Council on April 13 passed a resolution to waive penalties and interest for 2020 occupational tax payments.

The resolution, passed unanimously during a virtual City Council meeting held over Zoom, provides breathing room for local businesses during the pandemic “emergency” and an additional 90 days thereafter.

The waiver is based on a state order giving Gov. Brian Kemp emergency powers, according to city spokesperson Jennifer Boettecher, which currently runs through May 13.

City Finance Director Linda Nabers said businesses had a Jan. 1 deadline to pay occupational taxes, but in a typical year those taxes do not accrue penalties and interest until after April 15. This year, Nabers proposed to waive penalties and interest applied to late tax payments.

“We are just asking or recommending that those penalties and interest [are] waived until the emergency is over,” Nabers said. “That is what we have here for a vote.”

As initially introduced, the proposal applied only during the “emergency.” Mayor Lynn Deutsch said the city should take more significant measures to help local businesses.

“The emergency could be declared over, but if businesses haven’t operated, I think we need to give some time,” Deutsch said. “We should extend it beyond the emergency.”

North Shallowford rezoning, sale delayed

The pandemic is delaying a rezoning process that is crucial to a proposed sale of city-owned medical office buildings on North Shallowford Road, the council heard.

The $6.8 million sale of 4553 and 4555 North Shallowford to Summit Healthcare Group was approved by the council in March. The deal is contingent on council approval of rezoning one of the buildings for redevelopment.

City purchasing manager John Gates said that due to the pandemic, Summit Healthcare Group requested a 30-day extension for the rezoning process. City Manager Eric Linton proposed a 60-day extension. The council did not make any votes, but Deutsch acknowledged the 60-day extension.

Concern over business shutdowns

Shelter-in-place and business closure orders around the country have sparked debates about the priorities of public health and economic impacts. Dunwoody was among the first metro cities to begin ordering business closures, starting March 20, and a statewide shelter-in-place order from Kemp applies through April 30.

At the April 13 City Council meeting, resident William Odette expressed concerns about further local extensions of such orders.

“This has put a lot of people out of business,” said Odette. “You guys shut us down a week before even [April] started, so we’ve been down for three weeks as of, actually, today. You’ve got a lot of people out there that are really pissed off right now and they’re getting really antsy, and I want to know right now, when the federal government says, ‘Open up this economy,’ are the little cities going to screw with people and then hold everybody back?”

While the council did not respond directly to public comment, Deutsch later noted that the power to reopen businesses currently lies with the state, not the city.

“On April 2, the governor took away local governments ability to regulate businesses,” Deutsch said. “The governor and state now have control over when things change for businesses.”

Supporting aid organizations

Deutsch called on residents to support local food banks and aid organizations. She suggested the following local organizations: the Community Assistance Center; Jewish Family & Career Services; and Malachi’s Storehouse.

–Ryan Kolakowski

Update: This story has been updated with a clarification from the city about the period to which the tax fee waiver applies.