Harlem city officials recently passed a resolution that will help protect what its residents value - Harlem's small-town charm.
The resolution, passed by Harlem City Council late last month, is a temporary planning and zoning resolution requiring all commercial and industrial buildings to be made of brick, stucco or textured masonry. It was put in place to govern growth while city officials update city planning and zoning, building and subdivision codes, Mayor Scott Dean said.
"It is just a preparatory," Dean said. "It is not because of anything. We are just putting it in place so we don't have to deal with things later. A preventative kind of thing.
"You can't go back and say, 'Wait a minute, we don't like that.' You have to have these kinds of resolutions in place before you have these ugly boxes that don't look attractive and that sort of stuff."
City officials enacted a 90-day rezoning moratorium June 5, which states city officials will not rezone any property until Sept. 5, giving time to update the codes, Dean said. In addition, the city currently is under a moratorium by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division until sludge is cleared from Harlem's drainage pond and sewer systems are updated. That work is in progress.
When both moratoriums are lifted, the city will welcome development, Dean said. One developer already has plans to build in Harlem and city officials have spoken with two others, Dean said.
"They are knocking on our door pretty hard," Dean said. "It is not that we are anti-growth. We don't want to be anti-growth. We just want controlled, facilitated growth. Managed growth."
The updates are funded by a matched $10,000 Quality Growth Grant from the state Department of Community Affairs.
Many of the recommendations the council agreed with were listed in the results from a planning session by architecture students at the University of Georgia. They took Harlem's existing architecture and designed what could be the look of Harlem in the future. When the updates are completed, the city's Historic Preservation Committee will join the planning and zoning process.
In accordance with the resolution, all zoning requests - residential excluded - must include a design plan submitted to the Harlem Planning and Zoning Committee or the preservation committee, and be approved by the city council before a building permit is issued.
Dean is asking Harlem residents' input in the code updates.
"What we are trying to do is encourage more people to come to the council meetings, or at least the work sessions, so we can get more opinions and pool everything together and come up with our vision for Harlem," Dean said. "Basically, it sets the bar for the next 50 years. You only have one chance at this."
The Harlem City Council will discuss the planning and zoning updates in a work session Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall. The next council meeting is a 7 p.m. Monday.
"We want to make sure this is the place you want to raise your kids and your family and all that and keep the identity of the small town," Dean said.
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