At a Coweta County Board of Zoning Appeals meeting on Tuesday, locals’ dreams were on display.
Whether it was a wish as simple as covering a patio to make it a more comfortable seating area, as big as building a home on a new farm to experience where food comes from or a shared dream of expanding a church’s mission, their plans were all poured out before board members as people requested a recommendation for their projects.
All but one of those requests was met with unanimous approval and sometimes even comments of support from the board members.
The one denial was an expression of mistrust as the board members were informed that the property owner had not stayed within the terms of the previous permits he had received.
Dr. Angampally Rajeev, whose office is in a residential area at the corner of Ashmore Drive and Poplar Road, requested that the board allow him to remove a 50-foot buffer to a neighboring property in order to build more parking spaces.
He has purchased both adjoining properties since building the office, but both properties are still zoned residential and no application has been filed to change that, said Angela White, assistant director of Coweta County Development Services.
“We do not have any data provided to our team, specifically our development review folks, to justify additional parking for the business,” White said. “The concern based on comments coming in is that removal of that buffer would then take the screening mechanisms, ‘cause all you’d have then is a landscape strip.”
Additionally, she said there were concerns in dealing with applicant Rajeev previously. For instance, the permits he had requested and received for opening the office were based on keeping the original structure with modifications.
“The original goal was to use the existing house that was there, and that’s how Mr. (Kip) Oldham did the design work showing the nature of it,” White said. “At that time the majority of the neighborhood supported it because it was going to maintain the residential feel.”
Instead the home was gutted to the studs and completely rebuilt — the design was completely changed, she said. Since then, the neighbors have also complained about trash being on the property, but White said that will hopefully be resolved soon, since they had already spoken to Rajeev about city ordinances regarding the placement of dumpsters.
Rajeev said that his practice deals with heart and vascular patients who often have difficulties walking long distances. He wanted to add the extra spaces to limit the distance to his office from their vehicles, Rajeev said. Some of them are now having to park on the street.
“We have grown out of proportion in such a short time,” Rajeev said, adding, “This is a very underserved area as far as heart and vascular practice is concerned and people are getting a benefit out of it. Hence the need for increased parking and I would appreciate you considering that.”
Jessica Smith, who has worked for Dr. Rajeev for three years, also spoke in support of the request.
“We never turn patients away; we take pride in seeing patients the same day,” Smith said. “We have an open door policy and we don’t turn them away based on insurance or anything like that, and that’s something that a lot of practices don’t stand by or don’t think about doing.”
That is one reason the practice has grown so quickly and it also shows the need in the community for his practice, she added.
George Harper, a member of the board, recused himself from the vote, but represented the engineering firm that did the design work for the office. He told the other board members that the landscaping and a fence separating the property from the other properties on the street would remain if the parking spaces were approved.
But the remaining four board members denied the request for a recommendation for the project.
Church wishing to expand its mission
Another project the board members wholeheartedly approved of was an expansion at the Pentecostal Church of God. The church plans to build a 15,000-square-foot life center including a gymnasium and classrooms, and an assisted living center on church property.
The church brought dozens members to the meeting, a number of whom spoke in support of the project.
Jenell Stanley, a lifelong member of the church and a graduate of the Pentecostal Christian Academy, now has her own child enrolled in the school, she said.
“My family represents three generations that worship, work and learn within the church’s embrace,” Stanley said, reading from a written statement. “It is with my utmost enthusiasm that I offer my unwavering support for the expansion of the life center as well as the assisted living center as it will beautifully complete the cycle of worship, work, learning, living and play for individuals across all spectrums of life.”
Harper, who also represented Paramount Engineering for the Pentecostal Church project, said that the plans were preliminary for the assisted living center since that would be built in the future, probably five years from now.
“This is going to be a two phase project,” Harper said. “The first project is going to be the life center which they plan to start construction on in the next year.”
However, in talking with the city, they were advised to do one conditional use permit to cover the entire master plan, he said. The plans for the assisted living center though are not firm and will come back before the board when the church is ready to start work, Harper added.
He also noted that most of the properties adjoining the church and school campus are owned by the county including the county landfill. Only one parcel is privately owned.
“They do a lot of different things in the community with programs for youth and all those type things,” Harper said.
Pastor Rufus Walden explained the church’s vision of the expansion.
“The proposed life center will serve as a beacon of light offering a space for fellowship, growth and athletic activities,” Walden said. “It will house a full court gymnasium and support facilities for our school and church. This expansion will provide opportunities for our youth to develop physically, mentally and spiritually.”
The assisted living center, which the church plans to build in two phases, will be built in the next five years, he added.
“This facility will be a testament to our commitment to serve, ensuring that every stage of life (is) valued and cherished,” Walden said.
Elder Clayton agreed.
“The purpose of this expansion not only represents the physical growth of the facility but also a commitment to providing essential services and care to our children and our elderly members,” Clayton said.
One nearby resident was opposed to the expansion, but did not give a reason, White told the board members.
Board member Royce Williams said he was thankful for what the church was doing.
“I wish y’all the best and I just hope maybe y’all can keep growing (on) property up toward Smokey Road,” Williams said, adding with a laugh, “Maybe you can buy the property of the guy that was in opposition.”
The board approved recommending the project 4-0 with Harper recusing himself from the vote.
In other business
The board members recommended a request by Nancy Sullivan to allow an eight-foot reduction in the rear yard setback in order for her to build a cover over her patio as well as front and side yard setbacks requested by Kevin Hayes to accommodate an unpermitted garage on a property that he has purchased.
They recommended approval for Nicholas Cameron and his family to live in a recreational vehicle for up to a year as they build a house on property they purchased on Bryant Boys Road in Grantville. The board members also recommended a request for an easement and road frontage reduction in order to allow the division of a large property in an estate into four equal sections for the heirs.
The Coweta County Commission will have the final say on the requests and all the requests are scheduled to go before the commissioners for a vote at their June 20 meeting.