Laney-Walker residents receive much-needed answers on overlay zoning proposal

 

 

Many Laney-Walker neighborhood residents are satisfied with a proposed overlay zoning district after a series of meetings assured them of the proposal’s intent to protect new residential development.

The Laney-Walker Neighborhood Association called a special meeting Tuesday night to address questions concerning increases in property taxes and fears that the proposal would force residents to abandon their homes.

Representatives at the meeting included Hawthorne Welcher Jr., the assistant housing director for the Augusta Housing and Community Development Department, and Tax Commissioner Steven Kendrick.

Linda Metoyer, a Laney-Walker resident, now supports the overlay zoning district after finally receiving answers concerning its effect on current homeowners.

“Before, I didn’t understand what was going on. Now, I think it will be beneficial for the neighborhood,” Metoyer said.

She also plans to approach city leaders about dilapidated houses in the neighborhood that many at Tuesday’s meeting agreed should be demolished.

An overlay zoning district adds special provisions that may restrict land use in an underlying base zone. Existing property owners will be grandfathered into the district if the proposal passes.

Residents can expect small increases in taxes as new development raises property values, but they can appeal tax bills, said Kendrick.

Under current zoning, land use permits businesses including pawn shops, liquor stores and nightclubs. If the overlay district is approved, such uses would need approval from the Augusta Commission, a step that is not currently in place.

The zoning proposal is on the agenda for the Monday planning commission meeting and, if approved, can be recommended to the commission, according to Warren Campbell, the senior project manager for APD Urban Planning and Management, a consultant for redevelopment projects in the area.

Another Laney-Walker resident, Bill Fennoy, also said he has the information needed to support the overlay district.

“I didn’t really know what it was. I wanted to know what impact the overlay would have,” Fennoy said.

Initially, the overlay zoning would only be enforced in the new Foundry Place, a mixed-use development at R.A. Dent Boulevard and Wrightsboro Road. Design plans are under way for the retail, residential and office space that could begin construction next year.

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