Tucker to clean up tow lots, change code for auto shops

Tucker City Hall. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Tucker, GA — Tucker Zoning Board of Appeals last week denied Tucker Towing legal non-conforming status over storage of vehicles on a lot adjacent to the business. ZBA upheld the recommendation made by Tucker city staff on March 16. The decision comes after months of delay due to COVID-19 court closures.

Tucker Towing, operating from 3815 Lawrenceville Highway, has been parking vehicles behind Mower Menders, 3823 Lawrenceville Highway, since 2005, using the adjacent lot to store dozens of vehicles from semitrailer cabs to coupes as well as tires, according to photographs.

In June 2019, Tucker code enforcement issued Tucker Tire a citation for illegal vehicle storage, but in September 2019 the citation was dismissed by Tucker Assistant Solicitor Carlos Mucha. A notice of violation was reissued in November 2019.

According to ZBA documents, “The case has been reset numerous times due to COVID and the nonconforming determination process, which requires extensive documentation. The Planning and Zoning Director requested and reviewed several rounds of documentation pertaining to the request in an effort to exhaust any and all possibilities for grandfathering. An outline of those documents and responses is included in this report.”

Prior to Tucker’s establishment as a city within DeKalb County, Tucker Towing was in violation of the county’s ordinance. The storage of towed vehicles is not an authorized use of land zoned C2, which applies to 3823 Lawrenceville Highway.

Tucker Towing is owned by Jerry Lamb. In an appeal letter to the Tucker Zoning Board dated October 2020, Lamb’s attorney wrote, “Based on the foregoing evidence, if the City of Tucker’s denial was based on a finding that Tucker Towing’s storage of towed vehicles was not authorized prior to becoming nonconforming, or that such use was not continuously maintain in the time since, then this represents erroneous finding of material fact contrary to the evidence presented” and calls it “erroneous application of the zoning ordinance to the facts” and “arbitrary action not supported by law.”

To grant legal non-conforming status, a business must establish no interruption in service. An Open Records Request made by William Teusink law firm to DeKalb County Department of Planning and Sustainability shows that Tucker Towing had an active business license from 2006 to 2016. An affidavit signed by Lamb states that Tucker Towing used the lot continuously from 2005 to 2015, and paid the electric bill on the storage yard.

On Sept. 15, 2020, city staff denied a request to maintain former code, or “grandfather” the property, and denied a request to use the property for storage of towed vehicles. Tucker Towing appealed the city’s decision.

City staff at the March 22 Tucker City Council work session presented a possible amendment to code regarding the auto industry.

“We want to educate and assist where we can,” said Smith. “For the last five years, even before we were a city there have been complaints and concerns about some of the vehicle storage, or the dilapidated vehicles or the inoperable vehicles. We want to address those concerns as well.”

Smith said staff will draft a text amendment and bring it back to City Council members for a vote after April.

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