New language for planning ordinance decided on

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HIAWASSEE, Ga – Hiawassee City Council will be lessening the acreage requirements for the number of units with a new ordinance change.

Though not officially part of the code yet, the council is moving forward with adjusting the planning ordinance language to state: “lots one acre or larger shall be limited to 12 living units per acre, constructed in no fewer than two structures and no more than four structures.”

Developers could build in duos, quads, or tris with the new wording, along with more units.

The adjustment will allow a new townhome development to build within city limits. Mountain Top Views wants to build on the back two acres next to the Georgia Vision Center. However, the ordinance limited construction to four units per acre, and the project needed at least six acres.

Proposed layout. However, adjustments are still necessary even with an ordinance change.

One council member Anne Mitchell opposed the ordinance change stating the way the council’s currently considering development is “kind of like the tail wagging the dog.” She wants Hiawassee to have a plan concerning the city’s future. Also, Mitchell stressed the need for affordable housing for low-income families in Hiawassee.

The comprehensive plan of Hiawassee will be updated this year and the City Attorney Thomas Mitchell advocated for considering how to properly handle affordable housing then.

Mitchell broached the subject of zoning suggesting it would give the city the flexibility to designate specific areas for commercial or residential development.

“I’m not sure I know the definition of zoning but from what I understand it gives us the ability to do things in small packages…and it protects us rather than harms us,” Mitchell commented. “If we want to declare a certain amount of area as a high density area with a zoning law, we could do that I think.”

City Attorney Thomas Mitchell confirmed the council could have a zoning ordinance just for the main street but didn’t recommend it because the county and city residents are strongly against it.

“If you did have a zoning ordinance, you would give a whole lot more flexibility as to what you could or couldn’t do,” Mitchell explained. “You could actually allow higher density residential by what’s called conditional use permits. You could decide whether that type of development was appropriate for a particular location.”

A conditional use permit is only possible with zoning and not a general planning ordinance.

Council member Amy Barrett expressed her support for the townhome idea as an affordable housing option for a two-income family.

“I like the fact that Hiawassee is appealing to my idea but different ideas of what home, community, and family is,” Barrett stated. “If I have a physician assistant or a dental hygienist and a physician assistant that are married, they can afford [the proposed townhomes]. I’m not saying it hits everything, but for me, it hits a niche that we don’t have.”  $350,000 and down good for a family…’

Council member Nancy Noblet added that she’s “hoping for the youth” and the future of Hiawassee with these townhomes. $350,000 or less in her opinion is a good deal for a middle class family looking for a home within city limits.

Council member Jay Chastain was absent at this meeting.

The first reading will take place during the May City Council meeting.

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