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Zoning is still on the minds of county officialsZoning is still on the minds of county officials

Grady County commissioners continue to bat around the issue of zoning in the unincorporated areas of the county, meeting last week with the head of the Southwest Georgia Regional Commission (RC) to discuss the process involved in adopting a zoning ordinance.
County officials met with Regional Commission Executive Director Dan Bollinger Thursday to continue their discussion about zoning.
“This is a not a quick process, and we highly recommend you take your time and get it right. We’ve got a boiler plate ordinance we can tailor to your needs, but what we think and what you and local citizens think, are two different things,” Bollinger said.
The RC head suggested establishing a committee to go through the ordinance “piece by piece,” with his staff explaining how each section works and what the purpose of each section is so that the group can better understand the proposed law.
Bollinger warned that even with zoning, issues not covered by the ordinance will come up. He mentioned a proposed homeland security training facility that was proposed for location in Mitchell County that was very controversial.
However, he noted that the zoning process worked and the training facility was not approved.
Chairman Al Ball asked, “Even if a particular use is not covered in the ordinance, the ordinance would still dictate where and under what conditions such a use would be allowed, correct?”
Bollinger said he was “absolutely right.”
Ball added, with zoning “there are certain areas such a facility as the homeland security training center would not be allowed, but there would be areas it could go, but we could still say no.”
Bollinger said the ordinance would include procedures for variances and conditional uses that make sense to this community. He warned that such provisions are necessary and work if they are applied consistently.
The RC chief reflected on his 30 years in the business and commented, “I’ve seen things that have been allowed that should have never happened. Property has been subdivided and turned into a mess, and it can happen without zoning,” he said.
The county turned to the Regional Commission for assistance when it adopted its special land use ordinance, but Bollinger described that effort as an “experiment.”
With the potential for growth in various areas of the county, but particularly in southern sections, Bollinger encouraged the commissioners to adopt zoning.
County Administrator Rusty Moye recommended that the committee organized to develop the proposed zoning ordinance be made up by the members of the county commission and the county planning commission.
“They are the ones who have to make the decisions,” Moye commented.
Under the best case scenario, Bollinger predicts the process to develop a zoning plan to present for adoption would take about six months.
The RC director reminded the board that the public must be included in all meetings held to develop the ordinance, and he encourages public participation, but also warned officials not to allow the public to “kidnap” the meetings.
“You want to make sure people have the opportunity to speak and make comment, but not kidnap the meeting,” Bollinger said.
Moye brought up the issue of the unknown number of platted subdivisions that have been approved but not yet developed in the county.
“There is no telling how many platted subdivisions we have that have been recorded down in the clerk’s office (Clerk of Superior Court) that are shown nowhere on any land use map. Whoever owns that or has that plat are the only ones who know about it. That would have to be a part of the process to find and identify every platted subdivision and make sure they are on the map to be considered for future development. They are not there now, but they could be in the future,” Moye stated.
Commissioner Charles Norton, a vocal opponent to zoning, replied, “We’ve got that all over this county,” adding, “a lot of these subdivisions are still growing corn.”
Bollinger said that Grady County is not unique. “That’s not just in this county, but all of them.”
Moye suggested that the county would want to identify those subdivisions on the land use map and draw them over the agricultural use.
“There is nothing to say that you can’t leave it as an agricultural zone, and then they come in and ask for a change in zoning when they are ready to develop the subdivision,” Bollinger said.
Norton replied, “That’s where you run into a headache and have to ask for permission to do something when it has already been approved. Gentlemen, you all know my thoughts on this.”
Bollinger commented that anyone who owns property that has a platted subdivision on it can have input on the zoning map prior to the map and ordinance being adopted.
He estimated the county’s cost to develop a zoning ordinance in cooperation with the RC would cost between $12,000 and $15,000. Bollinger says a private consultant could be hired, but the cost would more than double.
Chairman Ball thanked Bollinger for meeting with the board and commissioners took his comments under advisement. No action was taken Thursday.

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