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County should know property zonings

Following a September 10th Progress story that announced Dollar General is considering a new store at the corner of Grandview and Cove roads, a flood of comments were posted to our Facebook page and website mostly in opposition to the potential project.  

Unfortunately, because the county may not have an up-to-date zoning classification for the parcel on their books, these concerned residents don’t know if they will have say in a store being built there or not. 

Right now this 6.22-acre particular tract is owned by Northside Church of Christ in Jasper. A representative of the church told the Progress the property is under contract with the developer, and that a portion is zoned rural residential and a portion is zoned for business and commercial usage. 

If the county records are correct and the property is zoned rural residential, adjacent property owners will need to be notified of the requested change (if it is ultimately requested); signage must be posted on the property and a public hearing must be held before the planning commission, which will then make a recommendation to the board of commissioners. After this the board of commissioners will make the final decision on whether it stays residential or is switched to a highway business zoning. 

If the property owner is correct and a portion of the parcel is already zoned for business, the store construction could proceed without delay. 

After talking with the church we followed up with the county by checking information on the QPublic website for Pickens [www.qpublic.net/ga/pickens] and by contacting the planning and development office and the tax assessor’s office.

All of their information reflects only a rural residential zoning, but when asked about the possibility of two zonings on one property the county’s public information officer said the current property owner could have “other documentation that indicates a highway business zoning.”  

What? That’s right. He said it was possible the county records weren’t up-to-date, and that the conceptual drawings for the Dollar General that have been shown to county officials were “likely based on documentation or information that reflected a portion of the property has a highway business zoning.” 

He then pointed to 2005 when the county first adopted the Land Use Ordinance (prior to this property here did not have any zoning). There was a 90-day window before the adoption of the ordinance in which property owners could pick and choose their zoning and apparently some of these zoning classifications didn’t make it into the county’s records. This is blatantly unacceptable that 10 years after zoning was adopted there are incomplete records.

This Dollar General case shows perfectly the pitfalls of sloppy record keeping by the county. On the one hand, you have adjacent property owners who may be shocked to learn that a parcel they had long thought was safely residential is actually open for commercial growth. On the other hand, you may have Dollar General planners and a church finding a huge kink thrown into their property deal if they discover a piece they had thought was commercial really isn’t.

Either way, someone loses because of government ineptitude.

The county has routinely hedged their bets on accuracy by cautioning that the QPublic website maintained in the tax office may not have the correct zoning on the parcels, since zoning is the province of planning and development. 

That is textbook example of bureaucracy – the buck doesn’t stop anywhere with zoning. It is not too much to ask that an accurate and public index of property zonings for the county be created and one that will stand up to challenges.