DDA backs downtown overlay district

DDA backs downtown overlay district

Thursday, June 13, 2024–6:32 p.m.

-David Crowder, WRGA News-

As the City of Rome gets ready to implement its coin-operated amusement machine ordinance, a downtown overlay district is being considered that could prohibit gaming machines within its boundaries.

On Thursday, Rome City Clerk Joe Smith updated members of the Rome Downtown Development Authority on the proposed district—the boundaries of which will be from the Etowah River over to Second Avenue to Turner McCall Boulevard.

An Overlay is a zoning district that incorporates one or more underlying zones and imposes additional development requirements for that zone. Smith told the DDA that City Attorney Andy Davis believes the city would be on firm legal grounds to prohibit COAMs in that area.

“Right now, I can think of probably three stores in that district that have COAMs,” Smith said. “There are two on Broad Street and one on Second Avenue. If this were adopted as it is envisioned now, they would be prohibited within that boundary.”

According to DDA Director Aundi Lesley, the issue of COAMs may be relatively new to this area, but communities across the nation have been grappling with how to address gaming machines for some time.

“Unfortunately, there is now a lot that can be done city and countywide, but this would be a measure we could take to mitigate some of the challenges we are having downtown,” she said.

The proposed downtown district overlay would also prohibit vape stores and hookah businesses.

Smith also updated the DDA on the moratorium on new businesses that intend to sell vape products. On May 28, the city commission removed the moratorium on COAMs but extended the moratorium for vape products through November 26.

The DDA voted to support the concept of a downtown overlay district, which would now have to go to the Rome-Floyd County Planning Commission for consideration since it does involve zoning issues and the table of permitted uses.

Smith also told the DDA Thursday that one regulation included in the city’s COAM ordinance is that stores that have gaming machines must be 300 feet away from churches, schools, or public parks, just like the alcohol ordinance. One store on Broad Street would not be in compliance since it is located next door to the Metropolitan Methodist Church.

“The ordinance gives these places one year to come into compliance,” Smith said. “The reporting and all that start right away, but getting the machines out in the open and meeting the distance requirements, they have a year to come into compliance.”

According to the ordinance, businesses that operate gaming machines have to submit quarterly reports to the city to show that no more than 50 percent of the store’s revenue comes from the machines.

The idea is to have businesses that have COAMs to submit their first report and get their business licenses in July, according to Smith.