Maternity home on zoning board’s agenda

by Sarah Fay Campbell

Decisions on a proposed “maternity home” for pregnant teens, expanded outdoor seating for a proposed downtown restaurant, and allowing vacant apartments on St. Clair Street to continue to be used as apartments are on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting of the Newnan Zoning Appeals Board.

The city’s planning department is recommending approval of the outdoor seating variance for a new restaurant at 15 Jackson St., in the former Chevron service station at Jackson and Madison streets most recently occupied by SMF Cycles. Also on the agenda are recommended denial of special exceptions for a maternity home at 102 East Washington St. and restoration of the apartments at 4 and 6 St. Clair St.

The meeting will be held Tuesday at 10 a.m. in the council chambers at Newnan City Hall on LaGrange Street. Anyone affected, as well as members of the public, can speak regarding the issues on the agenda.

Decisions of the Newnan Board of Zoning Appeals are final, and don’t come before the Newnan City Council. They can, however, be appealed in court.

• Applicant Joe Rizzo is proposing a full-service restaurant and bar with a patio and wooden deck for the Jackson Street property. The city’s ordinances limit outdoor seating areas to no more than 25 percent of the floor space of the indoor seating area. That would limit the outdoor seating to 286.5 square feet.

Rizzo is requesting a variance to allow outdoor seating capacity of 1,836 square feet. The proposed hours of operation would be 8 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. until 2 a.m. Fridays, noon to 2 a.m. Saturdays and 12:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sundays. Acoustic bands with small amplifiers are expected, and any outdoor music would end by 10 p.m.

• Jacqueline Decker and Alexa’s House Inc. are requesting a special exception and a variance for the proposed maternity home, which would be considered a personal care group home under the city’s zoning ordinances.

The special exception is to allow the maternity home. The variance is for relief from the city’s requirement that the home be the primary residence of the owner or operator, and that there be a minimum of 100 feet of recreation space per resident, enclosed with a six-foot fence and screened with a “class A” buffer.

The proposal is to have a home that will house no more than three teenage girls at a time, who will live there until their babies are born, according to property owner Sandra Comfort. The home will provide a safe living environment, ensuring that the moms-to-be eat healthy food, get medical care, and continue their education or receive vocational training, she said. There will be a 24/7 staff member, and no commercial facilities or signs. All births will be in a hospital. The home would be operated with a license from the Georgia Department of Human Services Office of Residential Child Care.

Having the home would allow the pregnant teens to stay in the community instead of being forced to go to another county for services, said Decker. Decker lives in her own home with her husband and son, and would not want to move out of her home to live at the maternity home.

The planning department is recommending denial of both the special exception and the variance. Planner Dean Smith says in the report that the application “cites a need for affordable shelter for pregnant women who are without homes.”

Smith states that, “we do not feel that there is a compelling argument that a facility housing three pregnant women will significantly enhance affordable shelter opportunities for residents of the city."

• Lindfield Holdings and William K. Davidson are requesting a special exception to be allowed to continue the “nonconforming use” for the apartments at 4 and 6 St. Clair Street. Multi-family dwellings aren’t currently allowed in the RU-I residential historic and infill zoning district. “Non-conforming uses” that were in existence when the rules changed can continue, but once they are vacant for six months, they lose that “grandfathered” status.

The apartment buildings have been vacant for a while, and formal condemnation proceedings were started in 2013. The buildings, built in 1987, are considered unsafe and unfit for human habitation, according to the planning department report.

Lindfield Holdings wants to repair the buildings to bring them up to code, and rent them.

According to the planning department recommendation, there is no precedent on the BZA of approving the restoration of an apartment building in RU-I once the legal non-conforming status has expired.

The property contains eight apartment units, and could provide low-cost housing for Newnan residents, according to the application. The applicants also say in the application that not allowing the building to be used would be an unconstitutional taking of the owner’s property.

The city planning department is recommending denial.



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