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North Augusta Planning Commission recommends against overlay district code change

April 20, 2019 GMT

After hearing from a handful of residents, North Augusta Planning Commission voted down a motion to recommend a text amendment to the Development Code during their meeting Thursday night.

The Commission received an application from the city regarding amending the development code as it relates to Public Use zoning.

During their March 18 meeting, City Council passed a resolution directing the city administrator to apply for two text amendments to the code.

The two changes would amend the code so that Public Use properties would not be subject to the standards of the city’s Overlay Districts.

A motion to approve the amendments, made by Chairman Briton Williams and seconded by Larry Watts, failed 4-2. In favor of the motion were Williams and Bob Clark. Opposed were Tim Key, JoAnn McKie, Larry Watts and Len Carter. Commission member Dr. Christine Crawford was not present at Thursday’s meeting and did not vote.

The city owns land off Georgia Avenue, known as the Flythe property, which was purchased to become the new home of Fire Station No. 1. The land is part of the Neighborhood Preservation Overlay District, and many of those who spoke during the public hearing at the meeting mentioned the fire station.

“The fact of the matter is, the city is coming after a specific piece of property,” said resident Stetson Corbitt. Corbitt called the application “round two,” mentioning that Planning Commission unanimously voted against recommending that the Flythe property be rezoned in 2018.

“Yes you’re an advisory board, you voted seven to nothing to prevent this in the past. City Council ignored you. You have a chance to take another vote tonight and take a stand,” Corbitt said.

Resident Ken Powell said during the meeting the city is taking “drastic action to eliminate obstacles preventing the fire station,” adding the only thing that has changed since the Commission voted against rezoning the property is personnel.

If both the amendments are approved by City Council, and Council approves rezoning for the Flythe property to Public Use – both of which Planning Commission have recommended against – the fire station would not have to conform to the Neighborhood Preservation overlay.

City Administrator Todd Glover presented to the Commission regarding the application.

“While certainly the issue of the fire station has been the topic, obviously we’re seeking a text amendment that would apply to the Development Code for any future Public Use. … My discussion with you will be in the broader sense of where this will apply across the board to even future uses,” Glover said.

Glover mentioned a potential of a different fire station years down the road on Exit 1 off Interstate 20. That fire station would also be under the overlay, he said.

“There is no part of Georgia Avenue or Martintown Road that is not in some sort of overlay,” Glover said.

He said every property the city looked at for Fire Station No. 1 was under an overlay.

Glover also mentioned the Planning Commission would retain the power at the time of rezoning to apply special conditions to the site.

Prior to the vote, each Commissioner spoke about their thoughts on the amendments and the overlay districts.

Williams said of the Neighborhood Preservation Overlay District that “it’s just not good code.”

“I’m not voting on the fire station tonight,” he said. “What I’m voting on for me is the overlay code. It needs to be changed and it’s too restrictive and I’m looking at that as a big picture.”

Mckie said the overlays have become “stifling to the community,” and Carter said the overlays were stagnating the community “in some ways.”

The text amendments to the Development Code will now go to City Council as a failed recommendation from the Planning Commission.

Commission also unanimously passed a motion to recommend that 11 parcels in Riverside Village, which doesn’t include SRP Park or Ironwood Apartments, be rezoned from Planned Development to Downtown zoning.

They also unanimously passed a recommendation that the site plan for Riverside Village Parcel G be approved. Parcel G is planned to be apartments over retail, and is located between the Crowne Plaza Hotel and the Savannah River.