A bid by Augusta Christian Schools to add a sports field house to its Baston Road campus will go before the Columbia County Commission for approval Tuesday, with a negative recommendation from the county's zoning board.
The measure failed to pass muster with the county's planning commission Oct. 6, drawing a 2-2 tie vote. Planning commission Chairman Tom Sprague was absent from the meeting, and a majority vote is required for approval.
Otherwise, a tie vote is considered a negative recommendation to the county commission.
Augusta Christian's application failed after an hour-plus discussion did not yield a compromise regarding access to the school through a back gate off Lake Shore Loop that has angered neighboring residents.
At a Sept. 6 meeting of the planning commission, school officials presented a plan to amend the campus' Special-1 zoning to include a planned field house and add to its master plan about 1.5 acres of land off Phillips Drive it had acquired in recent years. Some neighbors of the school complained to the planning commission about noise during football games and events and delivery trucks and heavy school traffic on neighborhood streets that were once private and not designed to accommodate either.
Since that meeting, Augusta Christian Headmaster Joel Woodcock said, access to the school from the Lake Shore gate had been limited to football games, special events and emergency vehicles. On Oct. 6, he asked to amend the initial proposal to drop the new acreage from the master plan until the school could designate a use.
A point of contention with neighbors and the planning commission remained gate access, which, along with an existing paved parking lot behind the school, was not listed in a 2003 master plan that serves as the guidelines for the school's S-1 zoning. The planning commission said other changes to the school's master plan have been made in the past few years that do not conform to the plans approved to obtain S-1 zoning in 2003.
Two planning commissioners offered the school the option of a variance to move the rear access to nearby Phillips Drive, but school officials balked, saying the school could not afford a new paved or unpaved driveway.
Ultimately, a motion to approve the rezoning contingent on the creation of a new rear gate off Phillips Drive failed 2-2, with Dean Thompson and Brett McGuire opposed.
In other business, the zoning body approved, and later disapproved, amendments to the county's tree ordinances governing commercial and industrial development. The amendments include such things as restrictions on light poles in a landscape island at a development, prohibiting large trees beneath power lines and requiring irrigation systems along rights of way.
Planning commissioner Tony Atkins, who at first voted for the amendments, requested his vote be rescinded so he could oppose the ordinances, which he said discriminate against commercial and industrial developers by not requiring the same of residential developers. The second vote failed 2-2, with McGuire also opposed.
The ordinance amendments go before the county commission for the first of two readings with a negative recommendation.
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