It was jokingly titled Planning for Dummies - And Smart People, and when it was over, several Columbia County homeowners left a little wiser about the zoning policies that govern their neighborhoods.
Pam Wills attended the nearly three-hour seminar Wednesday night empowered with the newly gained knowledge and more pessimistic about the county's rezoning process.
She said she took away "a good education on how it works and a lot of doubts in the way the county approves things."
About 50 people attended the seminar, led by county planning officials to help explain zoning designations and the county's overall Growth Management Plan to the public.
Participants' questions ranged from the specific, including commercial zoning along Furys Ferry Road, to the broader picture of how much more development lies in the county's future.
Information county Planning Director Jeff Browning shared with the group included:
- There are 19 zoning districts that cover every piece of property in the county. Residential designations, such as R-A, R-1 and T-R, determine how large lot sizes are allowed for housing developments.
- The commercial zoning districts, C-1, C-C, C-2 and C-3, differ in what types and the sizes of businesses are allowed to be built. For example, C-1 caps largest tenant sizes at 35,000 square feet, while a C-2 designation does not limit tenant sizes.
- Planned unit developments, or PUDs, are intended to accommodate a variety of zonings for mixed-use projects such as the Riverwood Plantation being built to include housing, offices and retail. PUDs do not have size restrictions, but the plans are negotiated between developers and county officials.
- All zoning decisions should be made according to the county's Growth Management Plan. At least, that's the theory, Browning said.
The plan, which is required by law to be routinely updated, outlines the land use policy for the county, giving insight to areas targeted for more commercial and residential growth.
"Every rezoning that occurs should be evaluated as that Growth Management Plan tells you that it should be or shouldn't be," Browning said.
Before the plan is updated again next year, there will be public hearings, and county commissioners will appoint members to sit on a steering committee.
The Coalition for CHANGE, a group of homeowners who follows development issues and who requested Wednesday's seminar, has purchased a copy of the current Growth Management Plan and donated it to the Gibbs Library, 326 N. Belair Road, so residents can easily see it.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.