Party houses popping up around Metro Atlanta that have drawn complaints from neighboring homeowners will be banned from any residential neighborhoods in Sandy Springs if a zoning text amendment gets approved.

The Sandy Springs Planning Commission voted on May 19 to recommend that City Council approve adding the language governing party houses to the city’s zoning code.

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“Some of these large parties that have shown up in recent history, probably more so before our last year, but where residential neighborhoods effectively become commercial parties with heavy traffic,” Matthew Anspach, senior planner for the Planning and Zoning Department, said.

The parties put a large burden on public resources, he said. To curb these commercial parties from showing up in residential neighborhoods, planning staff created a text amendment limiting where they could be held.

Sandy Springs made policy changes after a party at a Northland Drive mansion on June 9, 2019 brought cars that lined neighborhood streets, security guards carrying rifles and loud music that lasted all day into the night, residents told the City Council later that month. Now it proposes an outright ban on any property zoned residential.

The text amendment defines a party house as a single unit detached, single unit attached, or multi-unit dwelling, including all accessory structures and the dwelling unit’s curtilage (the land immediately surrounding it), which is used for the purpose of hosting a commercial event.

The commercial events under the definition may include receptions or similar large-scale gatherings where a fee is charged for the use of the dwelling whether those attending get charged for entry or not.

No event can be held without an administrative use permit issued by the city, which would be established by the director of Community Development, Anspach said. Sufficient legal parking is required.

Planning Commissioner Elizabeth Kelly asked how the changes would affect nonprofit organizations, as many supporters host special events at their residences and will charge guests to raise money for the nonprofit.

“My question is to make it clear that this is not another condition for a nonprofit. It doesn’t apply to them,” Kelly said.

Anspach said he would review whether the amendment needed additional wording to ensure that, but he thought it already was covered by existing language.

He said if the zoning amendment is approved, some people would find out when police showed up at a house where a party is being held.

Enforcement should be simpler for police since all party houses would be banned from any residential part of the city, Anspach said. Officers would only need to find out if a charge or fee was imposed on guests, the dwelling was rented, or any kind of commercial transaction happened. Under existing zoning code, a search had to be made for special events.

A party or event receiving an authorized use permit would need to produce that document if police were called to the scene, Anspach said.

The commissioners amended a motion to recommend the text amendment by also recommending that City Council consider language to make sure the changes don’t conflict with nonprofit events in residential neighborhoods or other non-party events like campaign events.

Kelly said another process applies to nonprofits holding events.

“It’s a very rigorous process to apply for a permit to have a fundraising, or any other type of event and provide proof of their nonprofit status,” she said.

Bob Pepalis

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Reporter Newspapers.