Etowah Tract zoning raising some concern
by Erin Dentmon
November 10, 2012 12:40 AM | 2196 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CANTON — County commissioners and the public have some questions about the Etowah River Tract’s zoning after seeing a compilation of various regulations that have been adopted for the property since 1990.

Director of Planning and Zoning Jeff Watkins presented the compilation to the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners and the public during Tuesday’s commission work session and meeting.

Watkins said his department has been compiling documents related to the Etowah River Tract in order to have a “guiding document” to reference when the area is developed.

“This is a book that can be used by the staff as we get development plans, which I understand is not imminent. We still have several years,” he said during the work session.

No plans for development have been filed.

The Etowah River Tract, a 1,300-acre site near the intersection of Georgia Highways 372 and 369, was approved in 1990 as a planned unit development. The zoning conditions were amended in 2006.

PUD zoning, no longer granted for new developments in Cherokee County, allows for a mix of housing types and commercial uses on a property, Watkins said.

Any development on property zoned as a PUD must meet 14 conditions. Additional regulations have been placed on the Etowah River Tract.

Whether or not revisions to the property’s zoning have removed an allowance for multi-family housing is a point of confusion, Watkins said, as are some other issues including minimum lot sizes and setbacks.

“It appears that there is some misunderstanding or a difference of opinion as to what has and has not been approved,” Watkins said.

Nearby resident Linda Flory was one of a handful who spoke against the uses allowed for the development during a public hearing.

“This includes land uses for apartments, hotels, live-work areas and funeral homes. This plan belongs in Atlanta. It has no place in this rural community in Cherokee County. We will be adversely affected by light pollution, noise pollution, traffic,” she said.

County commissioners also said the guidelines appeared to allow for uses beyond the original plans.

“This shows some uses I don’t think we contemplated with the original or with the 2006 revisions. We would have to go through this with a very fine-toothed comb,” Commissioner Harry Johnston said, noting that some parts of the compilation seemed to contradict other parts.

Johnston also questioned an apparent change in the required lot size.

“Going from 18,000-square-foot lots to 24-foot-wide lots, that’s a big difference,” he said.

The PUD regulations were originally written to allow developers one year to begin building. When Commissioner Karen Bosch asked about this condition, Watkins said it had been ignored in other cases.

County Attorney Angie Jones said she was unsure if the one-year condition would have any legal standing.

“It’s of concern, based on zoning rights,” she said.

The guidelines were not up for approval from the commission at Tuesday’s meeting. Watkins said he brought the document to the commission for suggestions before making it final.

“I do need some direction from y’all, and from the public,” he told the commission. “Those 14 conditions will still survive. This will be additional regulation on top of those.”

While there are no plans for immediate development, Watkins said he would like to have the regulations sorted out before development begins.

“We just want to make sure to launch it on the right foot rather than playing catch-up all the time,” he said.

Watkins and planning and zoning staff are further researching what regulations have been placed on the property, and he hopes to bring the guidelines to the county commission again.

Commissioner Jim Hubbard said he felt the development could be an attractive community, despite his unhappiness with some uses allowed by the planning department’s guidelines as presented.

“This could be a wonderful recreational community. With the river frontage, people would buy in a minute. I don’t have any problems reviewing it,” he said.

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