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Augusta Commission to take up controversial 'overlay' district

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Like a master plan covering most of the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem historic districts, a proposed “overlay” district continues to draw questions from property rights activists and concerned residents.

The district, up for approval today by the Augusta Commission, caught the attention of Laney-Walker resident Dee Mathis, whose name is on the agenda to speak.

“We disagree with the handling of it. The application was incomplete, and the people were not notified properly,” Mathis said.

Planning Director George Patty previously stated that property owners within the district were not mailed notices about the planned changes before the planning commission considered them, but that they would be, and community meetings have since been held.

The overlay district, bounded by R.A. Dent Boulevard, Wrightsboro Road, Twiggs Street and Laney-Walker Boulevard, would designate the type of development that may take place amid the vast residential redevelopment efforts under way in the area.

Opponent Al Gray grew concerned about overlay districts because of Columbia County’s efforts with its Evans Town Center overlay district, which initially discouraged “big-box” retail.

“Basically, it’s a property rights issue,” Gray said. “It allows them to pick and choose where they put commercial uses, and Planning gets to designate what is commercial, versus the market.”

Augusta Commission members expect the overlay to pass.

“It’s a protection of the community, so you can’t just let any old thing come in there,” said Commissioner Matt Aitken, whose District 1 includes the proposed overlay.

Commissioner Jerry Brigham said he had seen similar planned unit developments, such as Woodbine, have success in his District 7.

The district goes before the commission at its regular 5 p.m. meeting, as do City Administrator Fred Russell’s recommendations, agreed on during a budget workshop last week, for trimming the 2012 budget.

Russell, who appeared to have consensus about where to make the cuts last week from the seven commissioners present, will have Deputy Administrator Tameka Allen give presentations on the budget and other matters during today’s meeting because he is in Sarasota, Fla., interviewing for a job as Sarasota County administrator.

Also up for consideration today are rezoning decisions and a new tax allocation district expected to clear the way for a 180-acre development by a chemical manufacturer at a tract on Doug Barnard Parkway and a new sign ordinance that removes an existing “Interstate Overlay” limiting signs within a certain distance of Interstate 20 and Bobby Jones Expressway.

Commissioner Bill Lockett’s request for a sweeping forensic audit by an outside firm of all city finances and contractual obligations also goes before the commission for a vote, as does a set of revisions to the city’s personnel manual.

Most of the proposed revisions are minor clarifications, but included among them is a restriction on how much severance top-level city staffers receive when terminated without cause.

The previous section gave senior-level staffers up to two years’ salary if they’d been employed with the city for a dozen years. The revision limits the payout to six months’ salary.

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Taylor B
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Taylor B 11/14/11 - 10:37 pm
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Dear Matt Aitken: You are

Dear Matt Aitken: You are out of touch with reality. Love, Taylor B. I bet you thought an "overlay district" was in Amsterdam before this article came out.

Many Arrows
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Many Arrows 11/14/11 - 10:48 pm
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PRESS RELEASE!!!! PRESS

PRESS RELEASE!!!! PRESS RELEASE.

Property rights activist and overlay zoning district veteran Al Gray has the following comment on the overlay motion coming before the Augusta Richmond County Commission Tuesday night.

-----------------------------

The Augusta Richmond County government has been caught with its pants down so often Sheriff Strength could arrest them all for indecent exposure, yet it is poised to execute a plan initiated by a private entity that fails its own ordinance in uniformity, required notices, and completeness. This malignant plan as it is being executed is a dagger to the private property rights of every Richmond County landowner from McBean to Warren Road. Richmond County citizens are being told "trust us" yet again. They say this...."Trust our plan. We don't know the details, but we MUST pass it to before you find out what is in it."

When these overlays came to Columbia and Lincoln Counties, they were met with public hostility to the point that there was nearly a riot at the Columbia County Planning Commission in 2000. (Reporters at the Columbia News-Times of that day can attest to this as can Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross who was SEEN on the front row waving his fist and being decidedly loud in defense of property rights.) The overlay ordinances had to be scaled back to meet public acceptance. The Evans Town Center Overlay was thrown out in Superior Court for lack of notification, yet many Laney Walker residents had not been notified as recently as October 25. In Lincoln County negating a corridor overlay was a key campaign issue in Chairman Wade Johnson's victory in 2008 and the proximate cause of the firing of his Planning and Zoning Director.

We trust that residents throughout Richmond County are acutely aware of the many recent failings of its government and have ample reason to be terrified at what lies in shore for their most precious property rights at the hands of these failed "leaders."

I suggest you all wake up. Now.

------------------------------------------------------------

tomcasey
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tomcasey 11/14/11 - 10:48 pm
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Rock on Many Arrows...

Rock on Many Arrows...

tomcasey
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tomcasey 11/14/11 - 10:52 pm
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I have one question in twenty

I have one question in twenty six parts...

Why wasn't any final documents presented to the homeowners in the Laney Walker overlay? I don't think any citizen would ever agree to a blank check or a blank document for government saying, 'trust me I know what is good for you'.

Many Arrows
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Many Arrows 11/14/11 - 11:10 pm
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Pass it! Pass it!!!!!! Go

Pass it! Pass it!!!!!!

Go ahead, pass it. (Imagine maniacal laughter here. )

mike71345
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mike71345 11/14/11 - 11:13 pm
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What exactly are the reasons

What exactly are the reasons for putting an overlay that restricts types of businesses on a neighborhood that is already zoned residential? Don't answer that. Planning and Zoning has already said that plan ultimately involves letting businesses into a residential area. Would have been nice, though, if they had explained that to homeowners from the beginning.
Matt Aitken, you can protect the area by voting against this scheme.

tomcasey
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tomcasey 11/15/11 - 12:11 am
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As for Pastor Scott response

As for Pastor Scott response in support of the LWB overlay, she could only be speaking out as a private citizen and not representing the people in the affected area.

The reason is a neighborhood association is not a homeowners' association and has no legal authority over anyone in the neighborhood and no right to speak for them. Neighborhood associations can do a lot of good, but they are private clubs. They need to use reason, not legal authority to make points.

tomcasey
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tomcasey 11/15/11 - 12:19 am
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We have Parking Gate still

We have Parking Gate still unresolved and LWB overlay project headed to mass confusion, so what is next?

A 100k for some flunky for the mayor to run interference for him on the Boardman-Copenhaver-Ripken baseball stadium.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 11/15/11 - 05:00 am
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Y'all listen to Many Arrows.

Y'all listen to Many Arrows. I was wondering what he had that he was going to reveal. Don't forget the county is going to pour $50 million into that area also. It appears that Al Gray fellow brought out some good points.

Brad Owens
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Brad Owens 11/15/11 - 09:43 am
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Matt, what in God's name are

Matt, what in God's name are you saying???? This will not "protect" anyone.

Why should these people be allowed to not follow the law to the LETTER?

How can the giverment, the enforcer of its own laws, be allowed to break its own rules? Would a citizen be allowed to file a flawed Zoning exception? I think not! We pay these guys a lot of our hard earned money to do this work, I DEMAND that they follow their own rules. Not ask, DEMAND.

The point I will make is simple; if I submitted this plan to P&Z, an incomplete application full of holes, and did not meet the required rules to the letter of the law, they would FORCE me to start over and do it properly.

P&Z admitted it was not done right and said , "I'm sorry."

NO, afraid a "Sorry, MY BAD!" won't make it legal or compliant now will it? They do not give US the benefit of the doubt nor does P&Z allow flubbed up paperwork or applications to pass muster from us. They should, and MUST be held to the same standard as We the People are.

This should be rejected and sent back to be planned properly with FULL participation of the actual affected home owners. Looks like they are trying to shove this through to help certain developers get one over on us.

¡Viva la revolución!

Brad

Brad Owens
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Brad Owens 11/15/11 - 09:45 am
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This will never survive a

This will never survive a court challenge.

Brad

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 11/15/11 - 09:58 am
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Brad Owens asked: How can the

Brad Owens asked:

How can the giverment, the enforcer of its own laws, be allowed to break its own rules?

Excellent question. The answer is that this is the new trend. Have rules, but allow exceptions for those who are politically connected. Charles Krauthammer calls it "government by waiver." The No Child Left Behind law has all kinds of waivers school systems can apply for, and Richmond Co. has already applied because it knows it cannot comply with the law if it keeps the same sorry staff it has now. The new health-care overhaul law (written by minions of Reid and Pelosi, so I do not dignify it with the mis-monikered Obamacare term) is filled with waivers one can ask for, and McDonalds along with many others are opting out. These local overlays are just following in the footsteps of the Feds.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 11/15/11 - 10:02 am
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Susan McCord reported: . . .

Susan McCord reported:

. . . goes before the commission for a vote, as does a set of revisions to the city’s personnel manual. Most of the proposed revisions are minor clarifications, but included among them is a restriction on how much severance top-level city staffers receive when terminated without cause. The previous section gave senior-level staffers up to two years’ salary if they’d been employed with the city for a dozen years. The revision limits the payout to six months’ salary.

Let's hope the severance provisions are amended to limit severance payouts to no more than six months salary no matter how long you've been on the city's payroll. This needs to take place before they fire Russell.

Jilly Bean
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Jilly Bean 11/15/11 - 03:40 pm
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So why is development a bad

So why is development a bad thing?

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