All seven loan interest program applicants on the Council's agenda were approved unanimously, but Council Member Kelley Griswold held issue with approving multiple businesses in one vote.
Four businesses, all with loans through Southern States Bank, were approved under one vote. Griswold asked to divide the vote to discuss businesses individually, but his proposal failed with a 5-4 vote, with Council members Griswold, Bob Parsons, Connie Fitch Taylor and Tommy Dawson voting in support. Council members Beth Witten, Brett Smith, Steven Dixon, Jay Hovey and Mayor Ron Anders voted against it. The other three applicants all applied through a different bank.
“If we’re going to spend Auburn citizens’ money, I want to make sure that money goes to Auburn businesses and not to businesses based outside of Auburn,” Griswold said. “I want to make sure we’re taking care of the public’s funds, since it’s up to us whether we want to use tax money to support and pay the interest on a particular loan.”
Businesses must sign a contract stating the funds will support the Auburn business in operating through the time they cannot operate as normal. The Council cannot deny an applicant if they fully meet the criteria set forth by the City, operating within the commercial boundaries of Auburn and possessing a business license, City Manager Jim Buston said.
After all of the items on the agenda were discussed, the Council returned to the topic of dividing loan interest program votes to deal with businesses individually. As it was written in the agenda, each vote included all business applicants under the bank through which they received the loan.
“If we’re just going to abrogate everything to the bank, let the bank drive on,” Griswold said. “If it’s just a rubber stamp we’re going to approve whatever [the bank] has already approved, let’s not talk about it.”
Witten stated she thought the Council should not consider their personal opinions of applicants when voting to approve their loan interest payment. In such a case, she sees the potential for a lawsuit.
Sign up for our newsletter
Get The Plainsman straight to your inbox.
Hovey said he believes that individual discussions would not provide enough evidence to change the Council’s decision that night.
Buston explained that a business using the loan money on a business outside of Auburn would be violating state code by lying to the municipality and could suffer legal consequences.
The discussion did not lead to any changes in procedure.
Renaming Mike Hubbard Boulevard
During the Committee of the Whole before Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, the Council unanimously approved to begin the process of renaming of Mike Hubbard Boulevard to Bent Creek Road.
Hubbard submitted a letter to the City asking for his name to be removed.
Parsons asked if the signs could be removed the next day, but Buston said they must remain in place until they can be replaced with the new name for public safety reasons.
The Council will send their decision to the Planning Commission and expects to be able to vote on the street renaming during their meeting on May 19.
5G Network Towers
Parsons commented on receiving emails from constituents concerned with the installation of 5G network facilities within the City.
“I think there was a misunderstanding by some people that the COVID-19 virus was acting as some type of a cover for the wireless carriers to install 5G networks,” Buston said. “I know nothing of that. What we’re dealing with here is an ordinance that allows us to control our rights-of-way, should one of these companies want to install their facilities in our right-of-way.”
Buston said the state legislature is planning to vote within the next month on a bill allowing carriers to build 5G network structures within cities without the local government’s participation in the decision. Auburn must pass this ordinance before April 30 in order to be grandfathered in instead of falling under the state’s stipulation.
“I was hoping the state would not move forward on taking away our rights to control our own right-of-way,” Buston said. “Under the advice of our representatives, we put it on the agenda for the Council tonight so that we can be grandfathered should they enact that legislation in the state.”
Griswold asked about the images of cell towers provided in the Council's packet of information. City Attorney Rick Davidson explained that the images serve as examples, but not as requirements for future towers. The ordinance passed unanimously.
Mini-golf and restaurant development on East University Drive
Multiple residents raised concerns during the Council meeting over a development at the corner of East University Drive and Dekalb Street, citing concerns of noise, proper buffering to a nearby neighborhood and increased traffic.
Planning Director Forrest Cotton said the property’s street access will be from East University Drive, and the owner plans on the restaurant and mini-golf staying open no later than 10 p.m. The business owner has most likely not yet purchased the property, instead waiting for approval from the City for their intended project.
Parsons stated the standard 300-feet of buffering space required between commercial and residential developments was reduced. He said he does not have much confidence in the project after watching the live stream of the planning commission where the project was discussed with the business owner.
Witten proposed to postpone the conditional-use approval until the May 19 Council meeting, which is currently planned to be the first in-person meeting since March.
Do you like this story? The Plainsman doesn't accept money from tuition or student fees, and we don't charge a subscription fee. But you can donate to support The Plainsman.Support The Plainsman