By Tia Lynn Ivey
As the Town of Buckhead considers a large land annexation that would double the size of the town and new zoning designation to accommodate massive commercial and residential developments, the county commissioners are reluctant to get involved.
“There won’t be much input from us. It is a Town council decision,” said Adam Mestres, county manager, at the Morgan County Board of Commissioners regular meeting Tuesday morning.
However, County Commissioner Ron Milton offered his personal thoughts, despite county leadership as a whole declining to voice an opinion.
“I’m speaking as a citizen and not a commissioner,” said Milton. “But this is a big concern. It’s Buckhead’s decision, but it affects a whole lot of us who live out there in the county, a very large number of residents.”
Milton pledged to talk to the Buckhead’s mayor and council members before the big vote slated for Oct. 19.
Buckhead’s leadership will decide on several proposals from local landowners and a developer at the upcoming October regular meeting. The decision could alter the fate of the characteristically small rural town and catapult Buckhead into an epicenter of development.
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. Five land owners are seeking to annex .68 square miles into the Town of Buckhead and rezone those parcels to accommodate massive development. In order for those parcels to be rezone, Buckhead would have to create a new zoning district called a “Interstate Mixed Use” (IMU) zone, which would allow for dozens of commercial developments and both single and multifamily residential units. Buckhead is currently 0.8 square miles with a population of about 175 people.
The Morgan County Planning Commission voted to recommend denial of the new zoning category at the end of September, though the vote was not unanimous. 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.
During a four-hour meeting, public comment was split on the proposals for Buckhead. 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.
County planning staff opposed the new zoning proposal and the planning commission ultimately sided with staff.
Buckhead’s Town Council will wrestle with these proposals on Monday, Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. at the Buckhead Firehouse.