BOC takes no action on rezoning

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent

Three zoning matters came before the Henry County Board of Commissioners at its Aug. 18 meeting, and the one garnering the most discussion resulted in a bit of confusion about how or whether it was resolved.

Meredith Homes of McDonough requested rezoning from RA to R-3 for 11.683 acres of property at 354 Wilson Road in the Ola area. Chairman Tommy Smith recused himself from discussion of this issue, identifying the attorney representing the developers as his first cousin.

The proposal was for 19 lots with a minimum 18,000-square-foot lot size and a net density of two lots per acre. County staff reported that it was consistent with the future land use map designation of low-density residential, but the Zoning Advisory Board recommended denial of R-3 zoning.

The applicants called the ZAB decision wrong under the county’s policy and inconsistent. They argued that the standard for zoning is “reasonable economic use” and that development under RA or R-2 would lose money even if it were only the sale of undeveloped lots.

The applicant also pointed out that ZAB member Jim Risher, who recommended denial, has applied for permits in the nearby Canterbury subdivision, which is a concern because a board action that deters the request would increase the attractiveness to sell in the Canterbury neighborhood.

Several residents spoke out against the rezoning request, asking the board to keep it a low-density area. A number of people attended the meeting in opposition.

The discussion among the board members concentrated on the fact that, while it was great that the developers were a local company that they knew would build quality homes, this type of zoning was not the direction they wanted to go.

“I have friends and supporters on both sides of this. But when I look at Ola, I still see a rural area,” said Commissioner Gary Barham. “When I’m on the highway sometimes [Hwy. 81], I see someone riding down that road on a tractor.”

Barham made a motion to deny the R-3 request, after which there was silence for several seconds. Vice Chairman Bo Moss asked twice for a second to the motion but there was none.

County attorney Patrick Jaugstetter spoke up and said that Moss should try one more time.

“I think you have to vote one way or the other on this,” said Jaugstetter. “You have to deny or approve some intermediate zoning.”

Moss asked again for a motion and Barham repeated his previous motion but still got no second, after which Jaugstetter said the board should move on to the next agenda item and deal with this one later.

During his regular comment time at the end of the meeting, Jaugstetter said he thought the board taking no action was the equivalent of a denial.

The Times reached out this week to Smith and Jaugstetter for a comment on the results of the meeting’s lack of action. Smith stated in an email response Monday that from a procedural standpoint he thought it could come up again very soon.