The owners of a Sandy Springs home allegedly being used as a “party house” may find themselves in Superior Court where City Attorney Dan Lee said the penalties for code and zoning violations are much stiffer than in municipal court.
City Council approved an amendment to its zoning ordinance at its June 15 meeting that bans party house events in residential areas. Events are restricted to commercial areas in the city and will require an administrative permit.
Fines up to $1,000 per offense and jail time up to six months is allowed under the city’s charter and Georgia law, said Lee, the city attorney for Sandy Springs.
“I’m going to submit to you this evening a proposal that we take action in Superior Court to stop it for that reason. They don’t seem to want to listen, don’t seem to want to adhere to the city’s ordinances at any fine or prosecutorial level. The bigger fines, the bigger punishment is in Superior Court,” Lee said.
He was referring to a specific house on Northside Drive, where Sandy Springs Police were called on Memorial Day. The owners are now facing multiple violations, according to Lee.
Sandy Springs Police responded to the Northside Drive home after noise complaints on May 17 and 31. Citations were issued at that Memorial Day party that had more than 200 people attending, said Sgt. Salvador Ortega, police department spokesperson.
Brenda Letzler of Cameron Glen Drive said she lives with her husband in a home with a backyard directly behind that house.
“In April, two single men bought it and they have used it to host at least three paying events, and they appear to be planning to continue to use it. They call their house the Manor ATL,” she said.
A pirate party is planned for June 26 at the Manor ATL, according to a website.
“They are offering tickets from $10 to $600 a person. I cannot begin to Imagine what a partygoer is going to get for their $600 a person,” Letzler said.
She said since the new owners moved in she, her husband and neighbors have had to endure loud music, profanity, traffic problems and littering. The noise was so loud during a Memorial Day event that the Letzlers couldn’t stand being in their own house.
When Sandy Springs Police shut down the Memorial Day party, they reported more than 250 people were at the home.
“We do understand from talking to partygoers that there is a Juneteenth [June 19] event scheduled and the pirate party for June 26 is still being advertised,” Letzler said.
The June 26 party is advertised by Manor ATL on stayhappening.com as being held in an 8,000-square-foot house on 4 acres of land, with different music genres on each of its three floors. Standup comedians, karaoke, a fire dancer, hookah lounge, tattoo artist, raffles, food service and an animal dancer are among the activities advertised for the party at 5785 Northside Drive NW in Sandy Springs.
Letzler wants the city to escalate the second offence for violating the city’s party house ordinance to have a $25,000 fine.
“We simply have to give our police and our code enforcement personnel more tools to shut down these events in advance so shutting down an ongoing party with possible intoxicated attendees doesn’t escalate into mayhem,” she said.
Lee said the city is restricted to a maximum fine of $1,000 under Georgia Code. He plans to pursue legal avenues through state Superior Court, where larger penalties are allowed.
“It was definitely a shocking intrusion on our home life that we had not ever anticipated as this property sat on the market,” said Eric Richardson, the Letzler’s next door neighbor.
He expressed concern that an addition to the zoning ordinance exempting nonprofit organizations from the party house ban weakens it because anyone can claim to support a charity.
Lee said any event at a residential home that charges an entrance fee would be banned by the ordinance, including those held for nonprofit organizations.
James Cameron, another Cameron Glen resident, said he went to the party house on Northside Drive as police were shutting it down to ask the owner why they were holding these parties. As he stood there, he was pointed out to partygoers who were irate that they had to leave as the reason the party was shut down.
He also asked that the city take steps to shut these parties down before they are held.
“In an attempt to protect the quality of life and residential nature of our neighborhoods, this ordinance proposes to regulate commercial parties and dwelling units throughout Sandy Springs,” Matthew Anspach, senior planner, said.
The change to the ordinance defines a party house as a single unit detached, single unit attached, or multi-family dwelling including all accessory structures, which is used for the purpose of hosting commercial events.
Commercial events include parties, ceremonies, receptions or similar large-scale gatherings where a fee is charged for the use of the dwelling unit, whether or not a fee is charged for the event. Not only are party houses banned from residential areas, but they are prohibited from being held within 150 feet from residentially zoned properties measuring from property lines.
The ordinance took effect immediately.