Members of the planning commission agreed Monday that the county should work with the Department of Community Affairs to create new categories for land use, further define some standards, and “get ahead of the curve” with land use planning.
County attorney Phil Landrum asked the commission their views ahead of a discussion by the board of commissioners to update/overhaul the land use standards used by the county. The appointed planning board members all agreed that updating and refining is needed.
Several recent meetings have exposed gaps and inconsistencies in the county’s land use rules, particularly those with special use permits for wedding venues and other gathering spots and in the agricultural zoning (AG).
Commission member Pat Holmes said the AG zoning needed clarification.
“I don’t want to see all sorts of businesses in the AG,” she said.
At the August meeting, a question arose over the current codes which appeared to allow any type of “workshop” on an AG zoned parcel, including an operation with employees producing pre-fab products to be delivered elsewhere.
Commission members Lee Thrasher and Holmes both said the tree house resort, which applied for a special use permit in August and was on the agenda for September before cancelling their request, had given them concern. There seemed to be no category in the Pickens land use codes where it would have been permitted.
Other concerns included the frequency of special use requests or conditional uses. If so many people are asking for special uses or conditions, then perhaps it would be better to adjust some standard codes.
Discussion indicated that business has evolved since the codes were established and the land use standards that will accommodate new ideas in agro-tourism and venues are needed.
In other business:
• The commission approved recommendation of a zoning change on 7.5 acres on Ollie Long Road from Highway Business to Rural Residential. Owner Jerry Edwards said he operates a business nearby and realizes that the rest of his property would be better suited for residential. He said he plans to work with a local contractor to build four houses to sell.
Commission members asked Edwards about the gravel road. Edwards said it is in the deeds that all property owners must contribute to the yearly road maintenance.
• In another sign of how the commission needs clarity in their policies, the commission tabled a second rezoning request as the owners Jeffery and Virginia Jones were not present to discuss their Highway 136 West 7.27 acre parcel slated for change from highway business to rural residential.
There was no opposition to the change, but it was unclear whether the commission could take action without the owners there. Planning Director Richard Osborne said they were allowed to proceed with their decision. But commission members said they had always required owners to be there.
Commission member Clayton Preble said, “Let’s get it right. Historically, we always required applicants to represent themselves in case there is opposition.”
Osborne said he had asked the owners to be present, but did not say they had to be.
•Commission member Clayton Preble raised an issue about a routine change in building inspections, over the word “international.” Pickens County follows state minimum standard codes with their building regulations. The state uses as their official codes, International Building Code, International Residential Code, International Fire, with the word international in most of the code provisions.
Preble said, “words matter,” and he wanted to “drill down” on that word and see who is actually making the decisions. He wanted to know if the UN or some group is involved.
Osborne said the codes definitely come from the state of Georgia. He said the codes used in Georgia are appropriate here; it’s not like they are trying to find something that would work with both Georgia and Uruguay.
Preble voted for the update but noted he was still troubled by it.