In March, the Coweta County Board of Commissioners approved a dramatic change to the county’s development rules for residential property. The first phase of the “land development guidance system” changed residential densities in the most rural parts of Coweta.
Phase Two of the plan would have allowed higher density development in certain areas near Coweta’s cities, based on the proximity to infrastructure and services.
But, so far, no plan for Phase Two has been submitted.
So local attorney George Rosenzweig decided to come up with a plan for higher density development, and presented it to the commissioners as a text amendment to the zoning ordinance.
His “Newnan Ring Infill” plan would draw a circle around the current city of Newnan and allow higher density residential developments, served by public water and sewer, inside the ring.
It’s a rather unorthodox approach. Typically, a “text amendment” to the zoning ordinance is the rezoning of a particular piece of property. The property owner – or potential owner – typically applies to have property rezoned. Notice is sent to adjoining property owners, signs are put on the property, and a public hearing is held.
But the Newnan Ring Infill plan would affect hundreds of parcels. Coweta County Attorney Jerry Ann Conner suggested the better route would be for the commissioners themselves to initiate the process, setting the public hearing and having staff review the proposal. Major changes to the county’s zoning procedures are typically initiated by the county.
So that’s what will happen, and the public hearing is set for the Dec. 15 commission meeting.
If the county wants to allow citizens to present text amendments like this in the future, “we need to go back and look at the process,” she said.
Rosenzweig’s Newnan Ring Infill district is centered on the geographical center of the city – the intersection of Lower Fayetteville Road and the Newnan Crossing Bypass, with the ring having a radius of 4.1 miles.
While the Newnan Ring would accomplish much the same purpose as the proposed higher density zoning – allowing more compact development near cities – the land it includes is a bit different. The Newnan Ring encompasses much more property on the western and southern end of the city than the proposed high-density area under the county’s land development guidance system, but doesn’t extend as far to the north and east.
Last fall, the commissioners voted to set a tentative density of two units per acre in the highest density areas.
The county was under a moratorium on residential development, and only the work on Phase One was completed before the moratorium ended.
Under the changes approved in March, the most rural areas of the county have a minimum lot size of five acres, though larger developments could have lot sizes as low as three acres as long as the overall average lot size is at least 7.5 acres. The medium-point value areas could be developed under roughly the same subdivision and lot size requirements that have been in effect for years, with conservation subdivisions with an overall density of 1.6 acres per home, or standard subdivisions with two-acre lots. Before the change, all residential property in the unincorporated county was covered by the same density options.
Rosenzweig’s Newnan Ring proposal calls for developments to have an overall gross density of 2.5 units per acre, with a minimum lot size of 12,000 square feet – just over a quarter acre. There would be no town homes, duplexes or other attached dwellings, and there would be an impact fee of $1,000 per home under the proposal. He’s proposing a minimum home size of 1,800 square feet, and a requirement for 1,000 square feet of open space per home.
Rosenzweig told the commissioners that he saw a need. “It’s a need we all think exists,” he said. Since the county had not moved forward with ordinances regulating the higher-density development, “I thought I’d take a stab at it.”
Rosenzweig told the commissioners that he looked very carefully at the county’s zoning ordinance before moving forward.
The 2.5 units per acre density is equal to the city of Newnan’s RS-15 zoning district. The city also has a residential district that allows four units per acre and an old zoning designation that allows five units per acre. Additionally, the city has an infill district that allows variable lot sizes and densities based on the lot sizes of adjacent development, as well as higher density multi-family zoning districts.
Rosenzweig said he decided to try an infill area that would draw a circle around the city, and the densities would be similar to what a developer would get if the property were annexed.
Because so much time has passed since the county approved the land development guidance system and new ordinances, Rosenzweig said, “I thought I would propose a text amendment, and the first step was to define the area of the overlay, and the second step was to define what would go in the overlay area.”
“It’s something I just thought should be out there for the community to discuss and comment on.”
“We tossed this around for a year or more,” Commissioner Bob Blackburn said of moving forward with the higher density phase two. “We know darn well the city is annexing our prime land.”