Cowetans who live in the more rural areas of the county are concerned about the loss of Coweta’s rural character, and Coweta County Commissioner Bob Blackburn wants to make sure concerns are addressed.
At Thursday’s board of commissioners meeting, Blackburn said that he gets call after call from citizens who are worried that Coweta is losing its rural nature and rural integrity. He said he would like to humbly ask the county’s staff to work on recommendations that “would let us comply with the citizen input we received from our comprehensive land use plan.”
The comprehensive land use plan must be updated every 10 years, and was last updated in 2016.
In 2005 and 2006, there was a major public involvement process in the comprehensive plan process, dubbed, “Be Something Different.” There were multiple public meetings, as well as surveys, and the vast majority of Coweta’s zoning regulations – particularly those involving various types of residential development – came out of that plan process.
The 2016 update was less ambitious, and maintained most of the 2006 plan. There were public meetings and a stakeholder committee for the 2016 update.
At the public meetings, residents were asked what types of things were most important to them for the county’s future.
At the first meeting, “preserve open space and greenspace/protect trees,” “small-town character” and “preserve historic homes, buildings, communities” were among the top priorities, along with improving traffic congestion and the addition of more parks and paths.
Attendees at the second meeting expressed similar desires – preservation of open space and trees, passive parks and paths, reducing traffic and better jobs and educational opportunities. Other issues discussed included keeping large lot sizes and preserving small-town character.
At the Nov. 21 commission meeting, a large crowd of residents from the Bear Creek/Fincher/Tope Roads area spoke with concerns about future growth – specifically a proposal for a 100-lot subdivision on Fincher Road.
“We want to get ahead of the developers before they overrun this county,” said Jo Leinbach. “We want to keep it as we all know it – a county of rural character.”
“What can we do to rezone parts of this county to preserve this rural character?” Leinbach asked. She also asked what could be done to get the Moreland area rezoned.
“How can we keep the rural character of Coweta if we don’t have pasture lands, horse farms, conservation area and residential estates?” she said.
Coweta County has several different subdivision types, including a standard subdivision with 2-acre lots. There are various conservation subdivision styles, which can have lot sizes as small as half an acre, though the overall density can only be 0.6 units per acre (1.6 acres per house). Additionally, tracts can be split freely into 5-acre lots without falling under the county’s subdivision regulations.
These types of subdivisions can be built in the “rural conservation” zoning area, which encompasses most of unincorporated Coweta, without a rezoning.
There are also infill subdivisions that can be more dense, but they are only allowed closer to cities and more developed areas, and they require a rezoning.
John Parker told the commissioners that putting the 100-lot subdivision in the Bear Creek Road area is “kind of like putting a square peg in a round hole.
“I ask that you reconsider what you are doing to this part of the county,” Parker said. “We moved down there because we like the rural nature of it, and we’d like to keep it that way.”
“We did a comprehensive study on what the citizens want in Coweta County, how it should be formed and modeled in the future,” Blackburn said Thursday.
Quality growth and rural integrity were major concerns, he said.
“At this point we’re seeing such rapid growth that I have concerns over the pastures and fields being swallowed whole,” he said.
Blackburn said he doesn’t have the answer but, “It’s certainly worth asking staff to see what we can do. And it’s the citizens’ wishes,” he said. “So we’re complying with what they have already told us they wanted Coweta to be. “There’s no stopping growth, everybody knows that.”
But concerns about growth are probably the No. 1 reason Blackburn said he gets calls from constituents.
“There are concerns about losing the rural integrity,” he said. “And I think their voices need to be heard.”
Commissioner Tim Lassetter said that he couldn’t speak for his fellow commissioners.
“But I think I’d be surprised if all of us haven’t already voiced that concern to the staff,” he said. “I appreciate what they have already been doing to research that.”