Originally created 05/07/99

Planning board orders garage to close up shop



A backyard garage must close after Columbia County Planning Commission ruled that the repair shop violated county zoning regulations.

But shop owner Jeff Watkins said the garage was used only on a part-time basis and he did not realize he was violating county ordinances.

"If somebody asks me to look at something, I do," he said. "But I never had enough money to open a business there."

He asked the county to rezone the property from residential to commercial, even though a greenhouse on the property had been grandfathered in under the current zoning ordinance.

"The reason I want to get it rezoned is to take the heat off me," Mr. Watkins said. "If I work on things there, I get in all kind of stuff."

But nearby residents said the garage generates a lot of traffic in an already dangerous area.

"It doesn't have good access at all," said Jeannie Miller, who can see the garage from her home.

Plus, she said, the garage doesn't fit well in the largely residential surroundings.

"We didn't move out to Columbia County to be in this type of environment," she said.

In other rezonings, commissioners approved three rezoning requests from churches -- Woodlawn Baptist on Columbia Road, Grace Baptist Church on Hardy McManus Road and the Lighthouse Assembly of God on Cox Road near Evans High School.

The requests will now go before the full county commission for final approval at their May 18 meeting.

Jason B. Smith covers government for The Augusta Chronicle's Columbia County Bureau. He can be reached at 868-1222, Ext. 115, or jbsmith@augustachronicle.com.