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Council Mulls Variance, Recognizes Pressley

The owner of Diplomat Companies requested the variance for a property on Kingston Court where city officials said a sign is not in compliance with city ordinances.

The owner of a hotel development company will have to wait another month before the decides if they will grant him a variance for signs that city officials say are non-compliant and, if so, for how long.

City Manager William Bruton said that the property, which once housed a Holiday Inn, has been vacant for several years since a fire erupted in the building, causing it to close.

But, according to the city's ordinance, signs cannot be on a property for more than 60 days if there isn't an open business.

Mike Patel, owner of Diplomat Companies, said he has experienced numerous setbacks, including lenders failing because of the economic downturn and thefts of copper from the property at 2265 Kingston Ct. Patel told council members he thinks work on the two hotels -- Candlewood Suites and Comfort Suites -- could begin in the next three years, and council member Griffin Chalfant suggested approving a three-year variance. At that point, if the project hasn't started, Patel could return to the council for an extension, Chalfant said.

"I'd like to see them work on it and put some confidence in them to turn this around," Chalfant said. "I think we just have to take a chance on these sometimes."

Mayor Steve Tumlin said that issuing a three-year variance would set a precident, something he said would be detrimental to the city's other ordinances.

"Everybody's got a problem," Tumlin said. "This is an extraordinary problem, and I'm sorry, but to cover our eyes and enforce it (and) to say you're not going to do anything for three years...that's just unreasonable."

Tumlin said his suggestion is that Patel reapproach the council after a six-month variance.

"I feel bad for him, but I don't think we can go to our code and say, 'You  do it tomorrow, you get three years,'" he said. "It's a fairness issue."

Bruton said Patel has been cited for non-compliance, but that case in is on hold until the variance issue is resolved. If a variance is granted, the court case will not continue. If it is denied, the municipal court judge will decide when the sign is removed.

"If they decide to give it to him then we don't have a problem," Bruton said.

Bruton said the council must decide what time frame to put on the variance.

"What if they don't get a loan and don't put a hotel in there?" he said. "If you have an open-ended variance, it could go on for 10 years."

Patel has approached the council several times in the past regarding the variance but taxes on the property had not been paid at the time. Now that those have been paid, the city can issue permits for the project, Bruton said.

The council also declared July 11, 2012 at Condace Pressley Day. The Marietta native will receive the Pioneer Award -- the highest honor give by the Atlanta Association of Black Journalists -- on July 29. Pressley is Assistant Program Director at News/Talk WSB.

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