Bits & Pieces . . . For Readers Who Want to Probe Deeper into Government in Milton

(Last Updated April 18, 2023)

Bit and Pieces is a new feature of the blog. Milton politics and government is an amazingly rich source of material for the Milton Coalition Blog . . . so much material that I could probably publish a few dozen posts each week . . . . if I had the time or inclination . . . but I do not. However, I do not want to completely ignore emergent ideas and stories that readers might find interesting or useful. So this is the page where I will park these ideas and stories and develop them over time . . . perhaps even develop them enough that I may eventually publish them as individual blog posts. Each piece will have a title and a notation of when the piece was first posted and last updated. Postings here are in reverse chronological order . . . the most recent postings are at the top. Please feel free to reach out to me with topics you might like me to address.


April 18, 2023: Elections Feasibility Study Highlights Issues of Both Competence and Integrity In Milton City Government. In September, I was heads down on a project in Memphis and missed the Milton Herald’s article on Milton’s Election Feasibility Committee. It is excellent. I highly recommend reading it. Following is a link to the article:

In the past, I have felt the Herald’s reporting to be often lacking in depth. However, I’ve begun to take notice Amber Perry’s reporting. She wrote the piece on elections and seems to be a truly earnest reporter seeking the truth and digging deep to find it. It is difficult to read the article without laughing . . . that is, until you realize that elections are serious business that obviously the City is not taking seriously . . . otherwise, how can you explain the troubling, sometimes comical, elements of Ms. Perry’s article. For example, no one seems to know how Mr. Amick was appointed to the elections committee or who appointed him. Mr. Krokoff seems to have a poor memory on this and other issues; it is possible he is protecting someone. Or maybe it is just the standard incompetence that Miltonites have come to expect from City Hall. Even more problematic are the issues around operations of the committee behind closed doors before it was “formalized” . . . a fact the State Attorney General’s office found troubling. And there is much more . . . read the article

I plan to write a much longer piece on Milton running its elections. I attended the hearing where the feasibility committee presented its findings and was underwhelmed. I also watched last night’s election implementation update. I already had a lot of great material for a blog post, but Ms. Perry’s article adds even more fuel to the fire. If it was the City’s intent to cast serious doubt on its elections feasibility process, it has succeeded admirably.

In theory, I am not opposed to the City of Milton running its own elections. However, an extra high standard of competence and integrity is required where elections are concerned . . . and clearly Milton has fallen far short of these standards. Ironically, a key driver of Milton’s election study was lack of confidence and trust in Fulton County’s management of elections (which I cannot defend). However, if Milton’s election feasibility study is an indication of how Milton will fare in running elections, Miltonites should be worried. We may be jumping from the pot into the fire. I will expound on this piece in an upcoming blog post. Stay tuned . . .


March 16, 2023: Milton Coalition Blog is Critical to Local Government Accountability . . . Please Encourage Caring Citizens To Visit the Blog. If a reader does an internet search on a Milton City Council member’s name and “Milton, GA,” the first page of search results will typically include a link to the Milton Coalition blog. (The same is true if you insert the names of City Manager and City Attorney.) This placement is a direct result of the volume of views at the site. I invest NO money in manipulating search engine results. Why are these search results important?

First, high placement in search results indicates that Milton’s citizens are frequenting the Milton Coalition blog. They care and want to be informed. The Milton Coalition website is an antidote to the City’s constant stream of self-congratulatory propaganda that aims at keeping you fat, dumb, and happy. (I am proud that the MC Blog typically ranks higher in search results than the City of Milton’s Facebook page.). Even just a handful of engaged and informed citizens are threat to the status quo.

Second, high placement of the Milton Coalition blog in search results makes thin-skinned politicians uncomfortable. These search results are seen by the wider public. Hopefully, the Milton Coalition Blog exposure pressures these politicians to be more principled and more responsive to citizens–i.e. more accountable.

This critical accountability function of the Milton Coalition Blog is especially important because few mechanisms of accountability exist in Milton. With the Paul Moore ethics scandal, the City has demonstrated that our city administration and council have no interest in enforcing accountability . . . they are not even willing to support and defend their own ethics panel. Furthermore, in the past few years, Council has taken a number of actions to reduce accountability . . . actions meant to SHIFT POWER AWAY FROM CITIZENS and concentrate power in City Council. For example, Council voted to disband the mandatory 5-year convening of the Charter Commission–one of the few checks on City Council. City Council has also limited general public comment to just 10 minutes. And City Council has refused to take up the matter of Town Hall meetings, a government best practice that would allow citizens to directly dialogue with Council and the City Manager. Council has also refused to consider prudent election reform that might increase accountability through the ballot box. In Milton, elections provide little accountability as less than 25% of city council elections are competitive . . . there are many actions Council could take to increase election competitiveness, but has refused to consider.

What is the upshot of this post? Well, I am requesting your help in pushing the Milton Coalition blog to the top of search results for city government officials. Please understand that the blog entails for me a lot of investment of time and assumption of significant risk. Several local politicians have engaged in behind-the-scenes efforts to discredit me and take me down. However, I am still standing strong for the Rule of Law and for Milton’s citizens. However, I need your help and support. I need for my readers to recruit other readers, so that the Milton Coalition blog can continue to serve as a non-partisan mechanism for truth . . . a means for holding local government accountable.


March 10, 2023: Council Members Should ALWAYS Recuse Themselves from Matters Involving Their HOA. With the Paul Moore ethics scandal, it is easy to get lost in the weeds, like the legal technicalities around what constitutes a “financial interest”, etc. However, the legal minutiae obscure the most fundamental question in this scandal: Is it appropriate for a Council Member to ever involve himself in his/her HOA issues that come before City Council? I believe that the answer is a definitive NO. Such involvement will always predictably evoke suspicion and outrage by residents on one side of the issue. And with ethics, it is important that Council Members avoid even the appearance of impropriety. It is important to err on the side of caution. Milton needs council members that can rise above petty HOA issues and represent all citizens equally. This seems to be common sense, but apparently was lost on Paul Moore; actually, Mr. Moore himself had doubts about whether he should participate in discussion about the WC speed sign issue. I believe he took a calculated risk that Mr. Palazzo would not file an ethics complaint . . . he was wrong and now he needs to pay the price.

There is precedent for recusal from HOA matters. When Council took up the matter of road abandonment (to allow Crooked Creek to gate its community), Council Member Joe Longoria (a Crooked Creek resident) did recuse himself from the council’s deliberations and vote. That was the ethical course of action.

Many adjustments need to be made to strengthen Milton’s ethics law, such as eliminating its Wrongful Use clause. Another needed revision is mandatory recusal of Council Members from matters involving their HOA.


February 25, 2023: Miltonites Increasingly Paying Attention. Yesterday, the Milton Coalition blog logged over 100 views. I suppose at some point, citizens tire of the constant stream of propaganda churned out by Milton’s PR machine. Eventually citizens tune out the City’s endless look good/feel good Facebook posts and emails that heap praise upon the city for “winning” this or that “prestigious” (but actually meaningless) certification, award, honor, etc. With the City’s information blackout about the Paul Moore ethics scandal, citizens are seeking objective venues for information. Some local news outlets do provide an alternative to the City’s fairytale version of Milton, but they cannot provide the in-depth analysis required to truly understand the issues faced by the City and the associated (usually unseemly) back-stories.

I am pleased citizens are waking up to the reality of Fake Milton. The time is right for a reawakening in Milton. In 2023, citizens will have an opportunity to clean house and replace 3 City Council members: Paul Moore, Carol Cookerly, and Rick Mohrig. They should do so with extreme prejudice. All three council members are vulnerable for their stances on the Paul Moore ethics scandal. The City’s dithering in opening green space to citizens (and several other pressing issues) should also energize voters to reject the status quo.

Thanks for visiting the blog. Thanks for your continuing moral support. Please stay tuned.


February 24, 2023: Support Good Governance in Milton . . . Become a Subscriber . . . It’s Free. If you are reading this, you likely are an informed citizen that cares about improving the municipal government in Milton. If so, I encourage you to subscribe to the blog. It is free. Each blog post that is published will then be delivered to your inbox. It is easy to subscribe.

First click on the following link to go to the Milton Coalition Blog: Then click on the three-bar menu icon in the upper lefthand corner. Scroll down to the section entitled FOLLOW BLOG VIA EMAIL, enter your email, and click/press the FOLLOW Button.

Thanks for subscribing. Happy Reading, Tim


February 16, 2023: State of City Address Ignores Enormous Elephant in the Room: Paul Moore Ethics Scandal

Years ago, I quit watching the national State of the Union addresses, which had become tiresome and tedious. The transparent applause lines, endless standing ovations, and shameless pandering are nauseating. And unfortunately, a lack of civility has increasingly crept into the audience responses, making these speeches that much less appealing.

Milton is no different. On Wednesday night, Mayor Peyton Jamison delivered Milton’s State of the City Address, which was a drab, not particularly well-attended (except by other politicians) but polite affair. I forced myself to watch the speech and, even though my expectations were low, I was nevertheless underwhelmed. The speech was typical of the formulaic confectionaries we have come to expect from the political class. All style and no substance. Worst of all, Mayor Jamison’s speech lacked honesty. He ignored the enormous elephant in the room: the Paul Moore ethics scandal. The White Columns Traffic Calming Devices issue and the resulting ethics scandal have dominated and marred Mayor Jamison’s first year as mayor–whether he cares to admit it or not. Pretending that ethics is not a problem in Milton will not eliminate the issue and will likely create more headaches for the City. Mayor Jamison’s failure to mention ethics fits neatly with the City’s information black-out concerning the ethics scandal. So far, the only information that has been provided to citizens about the ethics hearings is what is legally required . . . and nothing more.

It has become increasingly clear that while Mayor Jamison makes speeches and cut ribbons, the real power in Milton rests with Paul Moore. Council Member Moore is driving the bus; the mayor and Milton’s other council members are merely passengers. This was predictable. As the late Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld once said: Weakness is provocative. And Paul Moore has a bloodhound’s nose when it comes to sensing weakness. At the May 2, 2022 city council meeting, Mr. Moore hijacked the proceedings to pursue a personal agenda against his HOA Board. Mayor Jamison appeared helpless. A hearing about a simple cost-sharing agreement was turned into a circus, with Moore as ringmaster and Mayor Jamison shunted aside . . . a bit performer in a sideshow . . . weak and ineffectual. Mr. Moore was able to push through a motion that erected 4 additional hurdles for the White Columns board thereby delaying for 90 days a decision on the cost-sharing agreement. More importantly Mr. Moore’s antics served to bring Mayor Jamison to heel. Since the hearing, Jamison has bent over backwards to accommodate Paul Moore, including nominating Moore to serve as Mayor Pro Tempore (i.e., his number 2 on Council).

In his speech, Jamison spewed the usual blather about putting citizens first. I am perplexed that he can make such statements with a straight face while at the same time not acknowledging Milton’s ethics problems . . . or even mentioning ethics as important to him and the City. Ethics are a cornerstone of good governance. Mayor Jamison ignores ethics and more generally good governance at his peril. His slavish support for Paul Moore will not play well with citizens and will only embolden Mr. Moore-a bull who carries around his own china shop. I believe ethics will be the central issue in the upcoming 2023 City Council elections. The mayor and City Council have lined up with Paul Moore and against citizens and ethics. I do not think it will end well for Milton’s establishment politicians. Miltonites have not been shy about turning out political scoundrels, once they are understand the truth.


July 15, 2022: Going Backwards . . . Triviality and Pettiness at City Council

During the time that I was involved in Milton city politics, the issues we addressed were serious. Citizens that backed the Milton Coalition were fighting ordinances and rezonings that would have increased density and significantly degraded Milton’s quality of life. For 2+ years, we mobilized the community to show up at council and be heard. These battles were hard-fought, but we usually won . . . and through these victories, the community won. And through these victories, we amassed political capital that we used to elect Laura Bentley and Paul Moore to City Council. We were confident that Laura and Paul would safeguard and build upon our victories and continue to address serious threats to the community. Citizens would no longer have to regularly register protests at City Council. Laura and Paul would have the community’s back.

Unfortunately, immediately after Laura’s election, Paul and Laura turned their backs on the community to pursue personal and cronies’ agendas, most notably the approval of 28 variances at Birmingham Crossroads that have negatively impacted the most rural parts of Milton. The progress that so many of us fought for was quickly reversed.

(More to come . . . )


July 15, 2022: Understanding Council Members . . . Think Middle School

There is a tendency when trying to understand local politics to assume that local politicians think, feel, and act like you think, feel, and act. In my case, I believed that City Council members, particularly those I was aligned with (e.g., Laura Bentley and Paul Moore), were logical, cared about the community, and were principled. Nothing could be further from the truth. To understand local politics and to be effective in engaging local politicians, it is important to understand their mindsets and motivations. And unfortunately, in Milton, the mindset and motivations of our local politicians are positively middle school. And this has been the case since the City’s founding.

Since 2006, two factions have been battling each other for supremacy: the Lusk-Kunz faction and the Bentley-Moore faction. Unfortunately (for citizens), this battle is based mostly on personality, with each side vying to be the “coolest” table in Middle School lunchroom; their battles often resemble food fights more than serious policy debates. Both sides have little regard for principles of good governance or following a rigorous process. However, even on issues of policy, there is little real difference between the two factions. Policy is really driven by personal agendas or the special interests each side represents. Both sides have had periods of ascendency. For quite a few years, the Lusk-Kunz faction reigned supreme. However, with the 2017 election, the Bentley-Moore faction gained the upper hand–unfortunately, with my help–and have done great damage to the community.

(More to come . . . )


July 12, 2022: Whither Laura Bentley?

It seems that former Council Member Laura Bentley’s self-exile has ended . . .

Recently, Bentley was appointed to the BZA by Council-Member Paul Moore. An interesting choice considering that Ms. Bentley has not been cleared of ethics charges lodged against her with the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission . . . charges very few Miltonites know about and which I will discuss more in a future post. And the appointment is all the more interesting because of Mr. Moore’s recent ethics difficulties stemming from his intrusion into White Columns HOA issues . . . the subdivision where he currently resides.

And coincident with her appointment, Ms. Bentley has begun aggressively publishing at her political Facebook page, which has been dormant for many months. And the posts are the typical Milton politician’s goobledy-goop: Let’s keep Milton rural, protect our equestrian heritage . . . Blah! Blah! Blah! Good for getting elected, but just empty promises for most politicians in Milton, most especially Laura. It’s hard to make the case that you are an advocate for preserving rural Milton, when you supported 28 variances at Birmingham Crossroads that did so much harm to the most rural parts of Milton. One Bentley post was especially interesting:

Too bad that Ms. Bentley did not have this mindset when she decided to support a concert music venue at Birmingham Crossroads that sometimes blasts music that can be heard 1.5+ miles away.

My intuition, honed through my involvement in local city politics, tells me that Laura is likely positioning herself for another run at City Council. Ms. Bentley’s identity is wrapped up in local politics. Ms. Bentley’s appointment to the BZA and her recent Facebook postings are likely not coincidences. Or to quote Yogi Berra: That’s too coincidental to be a coincidence.

It may be that Council Member Moore, who is now damaged goods because of the ethics charges against him, will resign before his term ends. If such a resignation occurs 6+ months before the end of his term, City Council can appoint a successor to fill the remaining term. That successor can then run with an “I” (Incumbent) next to her name–often an advantage. However, it also may be the case the Mr. Moore will seek re-election (I suspect he will lose . . . and I will certainly do what I can to ensure he does) and Ms. Bentley will seek to exact her revenge against her District 2 successor, Juliette Johnson. (See my posts on the Painted Horse to better understand the unfair and harsh treatment Ms. Johnson and her family received from Mr. Moore and Ms. Bentley.) Hopefully, Ms. Johnson is not naive to these recent developments regarding Ms. Bentley.

(More to come . . . )


January 16, 2022: City Council: Glorified Community Service?

It is often the case that candidates for Milton City Council, particularly candidates new to politics, will tout their community service in their campaigns. And I have often heard both first-time candidates, as well as long-serving council members, refer to service on city council as a continuation of their community service work–e.g., volunteering at school or working in a non-profit charity. And I suppose that in a certain sense, elective office can be viewed as serving the community, although city council members are paid. However, to view elected office primarily as a more glorified or more substantive form of community service is to fundamentally misconstrue and trivialize the grave obligations inherent in representing citizens. And to adopt such an unserious attitude toward governance is actually to do disservice to the community. After all, government is a serious business that deserves serious representatives who clearly understand their responsibilities.

A critical point of departure of government from community service is that government is granted police powers. This is a key distinction that underlines the seriousness of elective office. Police powers mean that the government has monopoly on legal coercion . . . and this includes a monopoly on legalized violence. In consenting to be governed, citizens give up some liberties in exchange for societal order and stability by investing government with such police powers . . . powers that government should exercise judiciously (but sadly often does not, even in Milton). A key responsibility of elected officials is to ensure accountability in the use of these powers–that is, to ensure such powers are not misused or abused; that such powers are applied fairly and without prejudice . . . that no one, not even their friends–actually, most especially their friends–are not above the law. And in fact, Milton’s city council members take a solemn oath to perform this duty to uphold the law.

“I do solemnly (swear) (affirm) that I will faithfully perform the duties of (mayor) (council member) of this city and that I will support and defend the Charter thereof as well as the Constitution and laws of the State of Georgia and of the United States of America.”

It is simple oath with a singular focus . . . a simplicity and singular purpose that makes its message compelling and clear: The duty of our city council members is to uphold the rule of law. And when they do not take this duty seriously–for example, when they trivialize elected office as just another flavor of community service–council members commit a grave disservice to the Milton community and its citizens.


January 15, 2022: Advice to New Council Members: Maintain Professional Distance From Krokoff (Last Updated July 12, 2022)

When Steve Krokoff was promoted from Police Chief to City Manager, I had high hopes for the City. Krokoff assured me and other citizens that he would take his role as head of Milton’s “executive branch” seriously. In this role, he would “stay above the fray” . . . his words. And I assumed a criminal justice professional–at least an honest and professional one–would care a lot about how things get done . . . process would be critically important. And Krokoff in an email to me assured me that process was his passion. However, over time, I realized that Krokoff was blowing a lot of smoke up our collective rear-ends. I saw example after example of an “executive” (quotes intentional) that demonstrated incompetence, poor leadership, questionable integrity and little concern for citizens. I saw an executive that seemed singularly focused on “protecting the city” and “playing politics.” Under the City Manager Krokoff regime, increasing distance has been put between citizens and their government . . . consent of the governed has been attenuated. Deep moats have been dug between citizens and their government. Early on, Mr. Krokoff began showing his cards. One of his first acts as City Manager was to modify Milton’s ethics ordinance to provide up to $5000 to cover legal costs for staff and Council members against whom ethics complaints had been filed. None of our sister cities provide such legal assistance, perhaps because they see such a provision as a hurdle to the filing of legitimate ethics complaints.

I’ll have much more to say about Mr. Krokoff as I continue this post. However, suffice to say that new City Council members need to keep professional distance from Mr. Krokoff. They may have to show him the door. That is made more difficult if they’ve established a chummy relationship with Krokoff, as has been the case with some current council members. I believe new council members–if they are objective–will soon come to realize that there are serious problems down at City Hall and that much of the dysfunction can be traced back to poor leadership . . . resulting in a toxic culture of incompetence and corruption (by which I mean staff intentionally disregarding the law in its recommendations to Council and selective under-enforcement and over-enforcement of Milton’s laws).


January 1, 2022: New Year . . . Same Old Politics

Well, it is a new year in Milton. I wonder what New Year’s resolutions have been made by Milton’s illustrious city council members. I hope that their top resolution is to improve good governance in Milton. Good governance is foundational to good policy . . . an axiom of government that has been mostly lost on Milton’s politicians since the founding of the City. However, there might yet be hope for Milton. Three new council members will be sworn onto Council at the next Milton City Council meeting. Hopefully, at least one of these new council members will have the courage and wisdom to promote principles of good governance: honesty, transparency, accountability, fairness, and primacy of the rule of law. And my hope is that the new council members will reject Milton’s two factions: Lusk-Kunz vs. Bentley-Moore. It is helpful that Laura Bentley is no longer on council and has been replaced by a citizen that has experienced firsthand Milton’s personality politics (practiced by Ms. Bentley). Hopefully, the middle school machinations that have plagued Milton’s politics since the city’s founding are rejected in favor of mature adults making reasoned decisions based only on strict interpretation of our laws and citizens (vs. Special Interests) prerogatives. Time will tell . . .


December 7, 2021: Lame-Duck Final Push To Effectively Ban Farm Wineries – An Amazing Feat of Hypocrisy and the Epitome of Double Standards (Last updated July 12, 2022)

I attended Monday’s Milton City Council meeting and spoke for the first time in 3 years. I felt compelled to speak (about farm-wineries). Although I continue to follow important issues at the City, I quit actively engaging in city government at the end of 2018, when it became clear to me that the candidate that I helped elect (some would say my role was dispositive), Laura Bentley, was not going to honor her commitments to voters, particularly her promise (one of 3 platform planks) to “shift power back to citizens.” Furthermore, it was clear that Laura was not going to uphold the principles and policies that so many of us had fought so hard for in the run-up to her election. At the Crossroads alone, Laura supported all 28 variances and a special use permit that did irreversible damage to the Crossroads, to good governance, and to citizens’ trust in Laura. In less than a year, Laura had squandered all of her political capital. Laura went from being the most powerful, most respected politician in Milton to just another dissembling and promise-breaking Council member. And this gets me back to why I spoke before Council . . .

As Laura’s rolls off council (along with Mayor Lockwood and Council Member Longoria), there is a rush to pass a slew of text amendments to Milton’s zoning laws. Given that there will be 3 new council members taking their oaths in January, it seems prudent that Council not address such important issues on their way out the door. Such actions are an affront to good process and disrespectful toward the incoming council members. And I say this as a supporter of some of the amendments, such as repeal of CUP (Community Unit Plan) zoning, which developers have used (or have attempted to use) to achieve have-it-their-way zoning. Eliminating CUP zoning reduces the power of Council . . . and thereby does in a certain sense shift power back to citizens. However, what caught my eye were text amendments meant to regulate, but I would contend effectively prohibit, farm-wineries. These amendments seem to be just another dreary chapter in the Moore-Bentley-Cookerly crusade against the Painted Horse and more generally against farm-wineries (although my sense is that the Painted Horse is grandfathered under laws in place before these amendments). It is a battle that has become very personal, and at times positively middle-school. We deserve better from our elected representatives. The Painted Horse crusade is absurd when compared to Matilda’s, which was the main message of my comments before Council. And oddly, the two council members that led the charge for Matilda’s, Paul Moore and Laura Bentley, are the same council members leading the opposition to the Painted Horse and farm-wineries. Even for politicians, it is an amazing feat of hypocrisy . . . and the epitome of double standards. You can watch my public comments by clicking on the following link and advancing to 1:27:30:

YouTube Video of 20211206 Milton City Council Meeting

In my comments before Council, I focused on a few areas. First, I pointed out the differences in approaches to parking between Matilda’s and farm-wineries. In the case of Matilda’s, there were essentially no standards vs. specific and onerous standards for farm wineries.

With Matilda’s, the applicant and property owner, Curtis Mills, provided a laughable, cartoonish plan for parking. It was called “orchard parking.” It was clearly inadequate, but nevertheless blessed by city staff as sufficient. (This was yet another demonstration of the incompetence of city staff . . . as if more examples are needed.) Citizens requested that parking for Matilda’s and the restaurant 7-Acre be considered together as clearly the parking would be shared; city staff refused citizens’ pleas. Within just a few months of approval of Matilda’s, Mr. Mills engaged Georgia Power in discussions about creating a second parking lot north of the concert venue under Georgia Power’s transmission lines; an agreement would be needed to encroach on Georgia Power’s easement. Clearly, Mr. Mills understood that his original parking plan was inadequate. However, an encroachment agreement with Georgia Power was never signed and filed. Additionally, the City never approved a north parking lot. Nevertheless, Mr. Mills proceeded to create both a south and a north parking lot. Without permission from the City, he covered 2+ acres with gravel. He also removed all of the vegetation under the power lines–in violation of Georgia Power’s rules. A citizen alerted the city to the spreading of the gravel, the unlawful creation of the north parking lot, and the lack of an encroachment agreement. According to the City, Mr. Mills asserted he had executed an encroachment agreement with Georgia Power, a falsehood repeated by the City Manager Krokoff without any proof of an agreement. The City Manager stated that the laying down of gravel was troubling and that environmental remediation might be required, but to my knowledge, nothing was done by the City to address this situation. Furthermore, citing public safety concerns, the City Manager allowed use of the north parking lot on a one-time basis; I believe the City Manager was trying to avoid embarrassment to himself and his staff in the event that there was a parking shortage that caused unauthorized overflow parking along the roads or in parking lots of other businesses. Citizens were assured that Matilda’s would not again be permitted to use the north parking lot until a City Council approved a variance for the parking. However, Matilda’s continued to use the north parking for its 2nd and 3rd concerts. Instead of citing the venue, the City flip-flopped on the issue, with the City Manager allowing use of the un-approved north parking lot until the matter came before Council. When the matter came before Council, Matilda’s was granted the variance, without so much as a scolding. However, the story around parking gets even worse. At the original hearing, Council eliminated the buffers around the entire property, even areas far from Matilda’s (and 7-Acre restaurant). This means cars can be parked within 10 feet of the property line with Birmingham Park. Contrast this with the proposed standards for farm-wineries: parking must be 100+ feet from property lines and screening provided. So Matilda’s gets to park cars 10 feet (from Birmingham Park) with no screening, while farm-wineries must park cars 100+ feet and provide screening. Why the big difference? Cronyism. And it gets even worse. 7-Acre is allowing cars to be parked along Birmingham Highway immediately east of 7-Acre restaurant. This creates a safety hazard, as cars entering the Crossroads from the west have an obstructed view of cars to the north traveling southbound. The state has advised the City that this parking is not permitted and is unsafe. Milton’s City Manager has chosen to ignore the state. Bear in mind that the City has bent over backwards to accommodate parking requests for the NW corner. It is also troubling that Matilda’s parking is being used for 7-Acre patrons. In essence, a variance has been granted to accommodate parking for Matilda’s (most of it on AG-1 zoned land) but is being re-purposed as parking for a commercial business. The property owner should be required to apply for a variance for 7-Acre for the re-purposed parking. And I believe such as variance should be denied . . . that is, the property owner should be required to build parking in accordance with the Birmingham Crossroads overlay (i.e., the parking should follow the same standards as those applied to the other 3 corners of the Crossroads.) What are the key takeaways here? Cronyism is alive and well in Milton. And don’t believe City Manager Krokoff when he tells you that he “stays above the fray.” The truth is that Mr. Krokoff often wades deep into the fray to further the whims of certain council members, even targeting specific citizens (including me) with the City’s PR apparatus. And readers should also understand that some of the variances granted by council attach to the property (not the use), so these valuable variances are perpetual, enhancing the value of the property with variances while diminishing the value of surrounding properties. It’s true what they say about the rich getting richer . . . and the poor (average citizens without agents on Council . . . low friends in high places) getting poorer. Variances mean that our community gets built out in ways that lower our property values as loud noise, bad smells, and unsightliness (legalized by variances and catalyzed by legal precedent) metastasizes across Milton.

Second, I pointed out the stark contrast between the loudness rules for Matilda’s vs. the proposed loudness rules for farm-wineries. Readers might recall that originally the Matilda’s applicant stated that the music would be so soft (mostly amplified acoustic, we were told) at Matilda’s that he likely would not need a variance to the festival use permit’s requirement that loudness not exceed 60DB (at the nearest property line). (Note also that the AG-1 limit for noise is 55DB at the nearest property line.) However, when the matter came before the Planning Commission, City staff recommended allowing a maximum of 85 DB at the nearest property line–8X louder than the noise ordinance for AG-1 zoned properties and approximately 6X louder than allowed for a festival use permit. This 85DB standard was subsequently recommended by the Planning Commission chaired by Paul Moore. This is very LOUD! It is the same loudness as a freight train traveling at 45 mph at a distance of 100 yards. And 85DB is the loudness at which OSHA requires hearing protection in industrial environments. Thankfully, City Council dialed back the maximum loudness to 75DB and in a later hearing to 70DB. Contrast this standard with the currently proposed standard for farm wineries . . . no music allowed, regardless of the loudness. So 70DB for Matilda’s (dialed down from 85DB proposed by staff and approved by the Planning Commission) vs. no music at farm-wineries, regardless of the loudness . . . an egregious double standard. Why shouldn’t farm-wineries be allowed to host music if the loudness meets AG-1 noise standard . . . which is 1/3 the loudness approved for Matilda’s? And it should be noted that Matilda’s can sometimes be heard 1.5+ miles away, so draw your own conclusions about whether the City is enforcing the liberal loudness standards it set for Matilda’s. The City’s lack of enforcement of these standards has worn down citizens, who no longer complain to the City. This is a frequent strategy of city staff (and some Council members): ignore citizen complaints until citizens give up. In May, the Matilda’s music was so loud that I texted Council Members Bentley and Moore and the City Manager: “Hearing Matilda’s at my home. It is that loud.” I received no response. Although I had previously heard Matilda’s music, I had never before contacted the City about the loudness of Matilda’s. And it is exactly this sort of response (or lack thereof) that deters citizens from any criticism of the City.

Another proposed (third) encumbrance to farm-wineries is an amendment to Milton’s zoning that requires a use permit for farm-wineries. It is interesting that a use permit is being proposed for a purpose that is designated “by-right” in Georgia state law. Requiring a use permit for a by-right use seems a contradiction in terms. Combined with other restrictions (prohibition of music, not allowing patrons to stray more than 20 feet from the tasting room, onerous parking restrictions, etc.), it is quite obvious that the City is effectively banning farm-wineries while tip-toeing carefully around state law permitting such farm-wineries. Meanwhile, the music blares away at Matilda’s . . . while the City turns a deaf ear and blind eye to the concerns of nearby residents. As I stated at Council, the stark contrast between Council’s devil-may-care attitude toward Matilda’s vs. its suffocatingly strict treatment of The Painted Horse and farm-wineries raises basic issues of fairness.

In summary, a number of encumbrances are being imposed on farm-wineries that practically ensure that no new farm-wineries will be allowed in Milton. These efforts to effectively ban farm-wineries are in stark contrast to the approach to Matlilda’s where City staff and Council ignored Milton’s zoning process and zoning law to permit a high-intensity music venue that regularly blasts music to the surrounding countryside. Why the difference in treatments for Matilda’s vs. farm-wineries? Well it comes down to personal agendas of Council members (in the case of Matilda’s, Paul Moore’s personal agenda) and cronyism (i.e., favors for friends). These personal agendas and cronyism drove staff and council to ignore both the rule of law and the will of citizens. And this effort to subvert good governance was led by the two District 2 representatives (Bentley and Moore) . . . the very same people who had previously spoken most forcefully against cronyism and high intensity development in Milton. They sure fooled me and many other Miltonites. Make no mistake about it . . . hypocrisy and double standards are alive and well in Milton.