“Absolutely nothing has been done” that would be affected by the restrictions of an overlay zone, said George Patty, Augusta’s planning and development director. No new commercial properties have opened in the zone, and no business has been proposed that would need a special exemption, he said.
The city’s Community and Housing Development department spent several months fighting for an overlay in connection with a massive city project to revitalize the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem neighborhoods. The zoning would protect the neighborhood by prohibiting certain types of commercial businesses, such as liquor stores and pawn shops, they said.
“If someone wants to put a strip club or other use not permitted on that list, then it will be effective,” Patty said.
Opposition to the overlay application began in October 2011, when residents weren’t mailed required notifications of the request. A few property rights activists continued fighting it until the zone was approved in January.
The overlay covers properties in the 1400 block of Wrightsboro Road and portions of Augusta Avenue, R.A. Dent Boulevard and Kingston, Brown, Holley and McCauley streets. A former foundry within the zone was identified for a mixed-use commercial development, but that never materialized.
Eventually, overlays could cover all 1,100 acres of Laney-Walker and Bethlehem, said Hawthorne Welcher, the assistant director of Housing and Community Development. Additional requests weren’t pursued because of problems with the first one.
“We were met with a lot of questions, a lot of resistance, so we backed off on those overlays,” Welcher said.
Janet Guyton, a lifelong Laney-Walker resident, has doubts about the city’s revitalization project. But the overlay is one good thing city leaders accomplished, she said.
“I am very happy (some businesses) are not able to come to my neighborhood because it draws a lot of unwanted individuals.”