Originally created 04/15/04

Residents learn about rules



For most homeowners looking for kicks, learning about county zoning rules rates alongside reading the fine print of a phone bill or watching grass grow.

But when a rezoning issue arises, groups of nervous, sometimes angry Columbia County residents tend to show up at the county's Planning Commission meeting, clamoring to know what the letters are that will determine the future of their neighborhood.

On Wednesday night, county planing officials attempted to peel away some of the mystique behind the cryptic zoning designations and the county's overall plan for development.

"We're at a point now where we're getting more commercial development in Columbia County because we've not had any," said Jeff Browning, the county's planning director.

"We're going to have the interest."

At the Evans Government Complex, about 50 people showed up for the seminar during which officials explained the zoning designations, the zoning process and how zonings fit into the county's Growth Management Plan.

It was Pam Wills' introduction into the world of zoning rules.

Ms. Wills, who lives in the West Lake subdivision, said she was concerned about the county's direction, especially with what she sees as the danger of overbuilding strip centers.

"I hope it's not ruined by development," she said. "I'd like to stay here forever, but I won't if it's trashed."

Mr. Browning, an advocate for the county moving more toward concentrated development in node intersections, said smart zoning decisions are made by following the county's long-term land use plan, which will be updated again next year.

"The key is making sure the county adheres to the Growth Management Plan and conducts its zoning according to that," he said.

Columbia County Commissioner Steve Brown said the commission doesn't always follow the Growth Management Plan and urged residents to hold commissioners accountable when they don't.

Questions from the audience often strayed to specific policies along Furys Ferry Road, especially about the future of its intersection at Evans to Locks Road.

"Our whole thing is if the county doesn't stop it, Furys Ferry's going to be the son of Washington Road," said Denise Vining, who lives in the Wexford subdivision.

County commissioners on Tuesday will vote whether to add a community commercial center designation to the county's Growth Management Plan.

The planning board voted in March to allow the addition but did not pick what intersections would receive the new label.

If implemented at the intersection of Evans to Locks and Furys Ferry roads, as originally suggested, retail developments would be allowed to build up to 300,000 square feet with the largest tenant up to 70,000 square feet.

Reach Vicky Eckenrode at (706) 868-1222, ext. 115, or vicky.eckenrode@augustachronicle.com.