Decorum within the Evans Government Complex auditorium turned to name-calling Thursday after members of the county's zoning board voted to postpone action on a proposed ordinance that would establish aesthetic standards for construction.
The ordinance would allow the Columbia County Commission to establish Node Protection Overlay Districts, which would dictate strict appearance standards on new commercial and office/professional construction and substantial renovation within their boundaries.
At Thursday's meeting of the planning commission, several residents in the packed auditorium asked the board to rule favorably on the new code and the plan to implement two such districts at the intersections of Belair and Columbia roads and at Furys Ferry and Evans to Locks roads.
Proponents of the ordinance booed the planning commission after the vote. Some residents called the commissioners "sissies" and "shills" for developers.
The standards dictate specific architectural styles; setbacks from the street; streetscape, landscape and parking lot design; and the requirement that developers to bury utilities.
The standards would go beyond the requirements of the Evans Towne Center and Corridor Protection Overlay Districts, which in the past year have been applied to Washington, Belair, Furys Ferry and Baston roads and portions of Columbia Road.
Lon Purvis, who lives near the Evans to Locks intersection, said the interests of nearby residents should be valued more than the complaints of developers, who might object to the cost to meet the building requirements.
"We want a beautiful area," he said. "We want something unique."
Billy Jackson Jr. said he was not necessarily opposed to the provisions, but was concerned about the impact the requirements might have on owners of small businesses who want to remodel their buildings but can't afford extensive renovations. Jackson and his father, former state Rep. Bill Jackson Sr., own property along Belair Road.
Jackson Sr. said such mandates are "beginning to intrude into private businesses."
Planning Commissioner Brett McGuire, in seconding a motion by Tony Atkins to table the district ordinance, said that though design standards are necessary, he had read the codes three times and continued to come up with concerns. He singled out the prohibition on drive-through windows for businesses and requirements for particular species of trees within the landscape.
He called the design standards "very complex, very far-reaching."
McGuire's vote to table the measure was joined by Atkins and Commissioner Deanne Hall. The ordinances will be heard before the planning commission meets Nov. 16.
In other business, the commission:
- Tabled a rezoning of 31.75 acres between Pleasant Home and Flowing Wells roads from Residential-2 and Manufacturing-1 to Commercial-2.
- Approved the rezoning of 22.31 acres at 213 Foxdale Drive and along Byrd Road from R-2 and Residential-1 to R-1a Residential Cluster Overlay.
- Disapproved a rezoning of 2.32 acres at the intersection of Chamblin and Columbia roads from Residential-Agricultural to Manufacturing-2.
- Approved a rezoning of 4.9 acres at 4516 Jesse Road from R-2 to Residential-3a to permit duplexes.
- Approved a rezoning of 5.71 acres near the intersection of Buff and Frontage roads from M-1 to Commercial-3.
- Approved a rezoning of 0.85 acres at 4296 Owens Road from Professional-1 to C-2.
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