By Tia Lynn Ivey
A controversial proposal will be decided by Buckhead’s Town Council that could double the size of the town and open the door for massive commercial and residential developments.
The Morgan County Planning Commission handed down mixed recommendations at a crowded special meeting last Tuesday, Sept. 22.
Over 75 people gathered to hear the Morgan County Planning Commission discuss a new text amendment that would create a new zoning category in Buckhead to facilitate a variety of development projects.
Public comment was split, with some wanting to protect Buckhead’s small town, simple way of life and others wanting to propel Buckhead into a future of expansions and new opportunity.
There are three separate, but related, requests that will all be decided by the Town of Buckhead: requests for land annexation, a new zoning district and the rezoning of newly annexed land.
After the four-hour meeting mulling over the request for a new zoning district in Buckhead, the Morgan County Planning Commission voted to recommend denial, with four members voting to deny, two members voting to approve, and one member abstaining. However, it will be up to the Buckhead Town Council to approve or deny the newly proposed “Interstate Mix Use” zoning category, which would allow for dozens of commercial uses and for both single and multifamily residential units. With that in mind, the Morgan County Planning Commission voted on whether or not to approve seven parcels of land for the new zoning designation, should the Buckhead Town Council ignore the commission’s recommendation and approve the Interstate Mix Use zoning. The Commission voted to approve six out seven land parcels for the Interstate Mix Use, and denied one.
Now it will be up to the Buckhead Town Council to make the final determination at the Oct. 19 meeting.
The controversial proposal currently being considered would nearly double the size of the Town of Buckhead and create a new zoning district that would allow for massive residential and commercial developments. Five land owners are seeking to annex .68 square miles into the Town of Buckhead and rezone those parcels to accommodate massive development. Buckhead is currently 0.8 square miles with a population of about 175 people.
Morgan County Planning staff has recommended denial for the text amendment and rezoning portions of the proposal.
“We are recommending it be denied,” said Tara Cooner, a county planner. In the county’s staff report, county planners outlined their objections to the proposed text amendment for a new zoning district.
“Staff feels the presented language does not require adequate information for rezoning parcels to an IMU zoning designation and does not sufficiently protect residential development from potential adverse consequences of proximity to commercial uses. Numerous clarifications should be made before the Town of Buckhead can clearly determine if such a development will be in its best interests. Staff recommends denial of the presented text amendment application. The applicant has already been allowed to submit a revised ordinance once, so Staff does not feel that withdrawal and revision should be an option given again.,” said the report.
The annexation request, which county staff does not oppose, aims to annex 487 acres into Buckhead. If approved, the new land and development opportunities could catapult the Town of Buckhead into a prosperous future, but critics worry such explosive growth could jeopardize Buckhead’s small town rural way of life.
Five property owners, working with a developer and Buckhead, are requesting seven parcels of land near Seven Islands Road on the Northside of I-20 to be annexed into the Town of Buckhead and rezoned to accommodate future residential and commercial developments. The proposed new zoning district would allow for dozens of various commercial uses, as well as single-family and multi-family residential units.
“This annexation would double the size of Buckhead. It has the potential to change the entire dynamic of the town,” said Cooner last year, when the plan was first proposed. “However, there is also tremendous potential to bring in a lot more tax dollars for the Town of Buckhead. The Buckhead Council will have to weigh that out and decide what’s best for the town.”
Currently five of the land parcels are zoned Agricultural Residential (AR) and two of the land parcels are zone County Agricultural (CA).
The Town of Buckhead Council will make the final decision on whether or not to approve the requests for land annexation, the new zoning district, and if the land to be annexed will qualify to be rezoned for commercial and residential uses. The council will tackle these weighty issues at the October meeting on Monday, Oct. at 7 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Buckhead Firehouse.