A forgotten county ordinance that could reverse the zonings of some undeveloped properties has taken the spotlight lately.
The 1979 ordinance, which allows the county to overrule zoning changes older than 5 years in cases in which the owner hasn't taken development actions, was brought up Thursday by the Columbia County Planning Commission.
At issue was a proposal to review and undo four old rezonings of property near Harlem. That proposal received a negative recommendation by the commission, but it will now be up to the county commission to make the final decision at its Sept. 18 meeting.
All four parcels had been untouched since they were rezoned from residential-agricultural to commercial or professional uses more than 20 years ago. The issue recently surfaced because the county commission wanted to readdress old zonings that might not conform with the county's Growth Management Plan.
Billy Franke, a Realtor from Evans, said his father purchased one of the properties at Louisville and Wrightsboro roads in 1989 as a tax-deferred investment.
The property was rezoned Commercial-1 about two years before, and Franke said it was the family's intent to eventually sell to a company to build a convenience store.
He said he is "totally against" having that property rezoned.
"I just hope you leave it alone," he said. He said he was unaware of the ordinance.
Planning Commissioner Tony Atkins, who made a motion to disapprove the forced rezonings, said that in 30 years in real estate, he had no knowledge of the ordinance.
"I would simply like to say that I don't think this is fair the way this is being done," he said. He asked county planners and staffers to use the hearing as a warning to property owners that the ordinance would be enforced.
"I have a hard time, and maybe it's a weakness, taking money out of anybody's pocket," said Deanne Hall, the board's chairwoman, referring to zoning changes that could affect property values. The planning commission unanimously disapproved all four requests.
Fifty-one parcels are eligible for review. Of those, 18 were recommended for reconsideration by the county commission because of conflicts with growth plans, county planner Dave Van De Weghe said.
The 1979 regulations had not been enforced before the meeting because there were not enough staffers to review old zoning decisions, planning director Jeff Browning said.
The first four parcels considered for review under the ordinance were:
- 3.41 acres at 5870 Wrightsboro Road, zoned C-1 in 1987.
- 1.30 acres at 873 Louisville Road, zoned C-1 in 1987.
- 0.50 acre at 827 Fairview Drive, zoned Commercial-2 in 1988.
- 12 acres at 1002 Appling-Harlem Road, zoned Professional-1 in 1981.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.