City explores rewriting zoning ordinance
by Celia Shortt
Newnan City Council will be exploring whether the city’s zoning ordinance should be rewritten, following the council’s yearly planning retreat Thursday.
The current zoning ordinance has been around for approximately 20 years and may not reflect the current market in Newnan.
“Are the present ordinances easy to understand and user friendly?” asked Newnan Mayor Keith Brady.
Things in the zoning world have changed between now and then, he added.
Newnan Planning and Zoning Director Tracy Dunnavant said in 2012 nearly half Newnan’s population was rental households, and that trend looks to continue through 2017.
Brady said he thought that number should be higher because of the number of foreclosures here in Newnan in the last few years.
Dunnavant also said the apartment occupancy of the city is at 96 percent and all current undeveloped land areas inside Newnan city limits, which are potential single-family subdivisions, are on the west side of I-85.
Home resale prices in the city are trending under $200,000 and new home prices are between $200,000 and $350,000.
Several council members questioned the current zoning ordinances.
“Are our current ordinances driving us to starter homes?” asked Councilmember Ray Dubose.
“(Are there) opportunities for annexation?” asked Councilmember Cynthia Jenkins.
Rewriting the zoning ordinance is not a short process, and Brady asked the council if they wanted to embark on it, knowing it would take awhile.
“I think we have to,” responded Councilmember Clayton Hicks.
From there, the mayor and councilmembers decided to have staff research rewriting the zoning ordinance and report back to the council on which direction fits the city given the trends Dunnavant shared.
At its retreat, the council also discussed expanding its economic development policy.
Business Development Director Hasco W Craver IV is working with the council to establish what they feel is an appropriate baseline for incentives for businesses to locate here.
“I think we have enough confidence in you to trust you to make recommendations,” Brady said to Craver. “We trust you more than we trust ourselves.”
Councilmember Rhodes Shell also suggesting bringing distribution-type projects to the city, as those projects are “very viable.”
Craver said with those or any other large industrial projects, the council will have to look at the current land use in the city. There may also be a need to consider rezoning, he said.
“I wouldn’t be opposed to considering rezoning,” said Hicks.
Other topics at the retreat included:
• The council decided to have staff look at improving the city pension benefits. A two percent increase for employees who have 30 or more years of service could have an economic impact of almost $90,000.
• The council instructed staff to come back with designs and outsourcing information for gateway landscaping as well as current landscaping needs in the city, including upkeep.
• Also discussed were maintenance needs with the streets and sidewalks in the city and balancing the cost of new construction versus repairs.
City Manager Cleatus Phillips said the city has $400,000 each year for those needs. Councilmember Jenkins also said they need to do something to prevent people from blocking sidewalks with yard debris and parked cars.