FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Forsyth County Commissioners asked fire officials to back off permitting tents.
As the county revises its fire safety ordinance, one sticking point has been tent and canopy permitting.
At their Oct. 3 meeting, a third public hearing was called due to the significant change to the law.
County Attorney Ken Jarrard said the fire safety and enforcement law needs to be updated to comply with state law.
The change is based on Census figures that put the population of the county at above 100,000.
“We have an obligation to adopt the state minimum fire safety standards,” Jarrard said.
By stripping the permit language for tents from the code, the fire department will only be able to enforce tents when they come across them while attending to something unrelated or when an outside tent business inquires with the fire department about the permitting process.
Another chunk of the language that was removed was an automatic adoption of any revisions done by the state.
“That doesn’t mean we don’t have an obligation to adopt them, we will just have to do it manually,” Jarrard said.
Although the county has an obligation to adopt the state minimum standards, but they exempt the permit obligations, Jarrard said.
Forsyth County Division Chief Barry Head had recommended the county adopt an annual $500 permitting fee for tent businesses. Originally, it was proposed that a $100 permit fee each time, but businesses complained this would cause a financial burden on customers and their operations.
“Through the permit process, we are bypassing having to shut an event down,” Head said.
Forsyth County Commission Chairman Pete Amos said the county has not had a major problem with tents before.
Head said that some tents have violated the fire code.
“Without some sort of check-and-balance system, we have no way of knowing if they are being statuted,” Head said.
Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills said she didn’t want to adopt any ordinance that would encumber businesses.
“Especially when there’s not a real need for it,” Mills said.
Head responded that there is a need.
“Keep in mind that the code is a reactive code,” Head said. “It’s in place because of something that has happened in the past. We don’t want to encumber the businesses either, it’s something in the statute and we’re responsible for enforcing it.”
A final public hearing will take place on Nov. 7.