The ongoing debate over apartment housing in Columbia County is headed to a showdown Tuesday night.
Whatever the outcome, commissioners have painted themselves into one pickle of a corner.
At issue at Tuesday's Commission meeting is the re-rezoning of a much-pondered 10-acre tract on Washington Road behind the Martinez Kroger.
At one time the site was considered for the new headquarters of the Martinez Fire Department. Then it was zoned, along with 20 adjacent acres, for apartments. Then, it was re-zoned as commercial property in hopes of a Tractor Supply store moving in.
Now, Johnson Development Associates wants commissioners to switch the zoning back to apartments to allow multi-family housing development of the entire 30-acre site.
The county's planning and zoning board, which generally takes a less-emotional look at such issues, sided with the developers and recommended re-rezoning. The final word will come Tuesday from commissioners.
Those commissioners are expected to judge the request on its merits, weighed against the county's often-bent Growth Management Plan. Under that criteria, the parcel fits the requirements for rezoning.
But here's their problem: Back in August, commissioners turned down a requested apartment rezoning just a couple of miles away. Their rationale - with which we agree - was that the county already had more than an adequate amount of vacant property already zoned for apartments.
Those developers are now suing to have the rejection overturned. So commissioners are backed into a corner: They can reject the Washington Road rezoning on the same grounds and face another potential lawsuit - along with the developers' threat that someone could put subsidized apartments on the already-zoned 20 acres; or, they can approve the rezoning and hand the Wheeler Road developers a fistful of ammunition in their challenge.
That August vote set the commissioners' new precedent. On Tuesday, we'll all see how the elected officials decide to live with it.
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