Zoning rules face changes

Elbert County commissioners to vote on proposal in May

Posted 3/29/15

What began as an ongoing effort to formalize Elbert County’s business practices has evolved into what could be a first step in overhauling the county’s zoning laws, which have been described by many as challenging.

In December, the Board of …

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Zoning rules face changes

Elbert County commissioners to vote on proposal in May

Posted

What began as an ongoing effort to formalize Elbert County’s business practices has evolved into what could be a first step in overhauling the county’s zoning laws, which have been described by many as challenging.

In December, the Board of County Commissioners directed the Elbert County Planning Commission to create and submit bylaws for its approval. After much public rancor over the content and approval process, the county commissioners directed the planning commission to make recommendations regarding Part I of the Elbert County zoning regulations as they pertain to the planning commission.

The effort resulted in proposed changes to Part I developed by the planning commission in conjunction with Kyle Fenner, director of community and development. The changes were unanimously approved on Feb. 10 by the planning commission and presented to the BOCC by Fenner at a public hearing on March 25.

“The planning commission has turned this over, tried it on, and unburied everything there is to unbury,” Fenner told the county commissioners as a prelude to her presentation.

Though the county commissioners did make some changes, adding specificity to some regulations and removing language they felt might be too limiting to others, the document remained mostly intact by the end of the session.

One minor change was a clarification to benchmarks in the approval process to document the progression of an application and to make the process more transparent.

“The intent was to never have the impression again that the planning commission was delaying the process or not being diligent in pursuing an amendment to the Elbert County Zoning Regulations,” Commissioner Larry Ross said during the discussions at the March 25 public hearing.

The wording in the latest draft establishes a 60-day window from the date of application for the planning commission to make its recommendation. If the commission needs more time after 60 days, they may grant themselves a 60-day extension by a recorded vote that documents the reason for the extension. Following 120 days, any extensions must be presented to and approved by the BOCC.

One change that did not surface was a reduction of the number of seats on the planning commission. As the draft stood when the commissioners adjourned, the number remained at nine, despite rumors circulating that Commissioner Robert Rowland might push for a reduction to five.

The current draft not only holds the membership of the planning commission at nine but also formalizes the appointment process, codifying the county commissioners’ right to nominate members from a pool of any eligible county residents without regard to the district in which they reside. The BOCC unanimously agreed to strike the language restricting district residency requirement for nominees as well as added a provision that nominees must be individually approved by a majority vote of the county commissioners rather than voted on as slate.

The new regulation also establishes a formalized process for removing a member of the planning commission. While the BOCC agreed that some formalization was necessary, they voted 2-1 to remove some specific language regarding oral warnings and written notifications. Larry Ross, District 3, cast the no vote, desiring to retain the provisions.

At the end of the proceedings, County Attorney Wade Gateley recommended the BOCC postpone its vote to ensure the amended language was properly reflected in a new draft. Barring any major change in position of a commissioner, the BOCC appears likely to pass the regulations as amended at a public hearing scheduled for May 8.

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