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LaGrange Approves Opposed Zoning Change

Tommy Murphy
Staff Writer

On Tuesday, during the last regularly-scheduled LaGrange Mayor and City Council Meeting for 2020, the City approved a controversial rezoning application for nine lots on Jordan’s Way and Aaron Drive that will allow for duplex houses to be built on combined lots.

The developer, West Georgia Star, plans to combine the lots into two parcels along Jordan’s Way and four parcels along Aaron Drive in order to construct six duplex houses that would accommodate 12 families currently living in the Benjamin Harvey Hill Apartments.

No one spoke against the rezoning application during a required public hearing held on Dec. 8, but several residents from the nearby Tucker Cottages said they would have spoken against it had they not just heard of the application.

The rezoning public hearing was properly advertized and notification signs were placed on the property. The developer also said they had hand delivered letters to residents of Tucker Cottages letting them know their plans, but residents at the council meeting denied receiving the letters.

Due to the controversy, Mayor Jim Thornton allowed brief commentary to be heard from several people opposing the change as well as from the developer.

One complaint from Tucker Cottages residents was that their community is primarily made of up of older individuals who don’t want the duplex apartments to bring in families with children and change the nature of their neighborhood.

Mayor Thornton noted that the issue before the council was to only decide whether to rezone the parcels to R-2, not to allow or disallow family housing. Under the zoning prior to the change, the developer could have built regular houses to be rented to families with children. The developer could have simply built separate houses a few feet apart rather than a duplex with a shared wall.

West Georgia Star also plans to build the duplex houses to look similar to other houses in the neighborhood. Both apartments in the duplexes will be on the same floor, and they will look like traditional houses.

After much discussion, the council unanimously approved the rezoning change 4-0, with Councilman W. T. Edmondson abstaining.

In other business, the council held a first reading for an amendment to the zoning ordinance to exempt restaurants and special event centers within the C-2 and C-3 zoning districts from durational restrictions for portable concession stands.

The change would allow for restaurants and event centers to continuously operate food trucks on their own property. The time requirements would still apply at other locations.

The council also held a first reading for an amendment to the sign ordinance that would remove window area restrictions for ground floor windows of vacant buildings within the C-2 district.

A proposal was made by Visit LaGrange President Kathy Tilley at a previous council work session to use the windows of vacant buildings in the downtown area to advertize LaGrange attractions. The idea was to use window clings to cover the windows to hide the vacant business inside and promote LaGrange.

At the time, the council noted many issues with the plan, primarily that the City cannot regulate the content of signage. The change would have allowed for full window signage of basically any type in the C-2 district.

Even though the consensus of the council was to deny the proposal, the planning process ended up requiring a public hearing and a first reading of the proposed amendment. The council is expected to deny the measure at their next meeting on Jan. 4.

The author of this article can be reached via email at [email protected]

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