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Planning board sends parking matter to city

ALBANY, Ga. -- The Albany-Dougherty Planning commission took the unusual action of voting not to make a recommendation to the Albany City Commission on a zoning ordinance that would establish requirements and regulations for parking and storing commercial vehicles in residential districts.

Planning Director Paul Forgey, working with the city/county Code Enforcement office, had put together a pair of proposals for the Planning Commission to consider. One of the proposals restricted any commercial vehicles other than school buses from parking in residential districts, while another allowed limited parking under specific conditions.

"What we did in compiling the two proposals is try and find a balance that would not too greatly impact small business owners who drive commercial vehicles while satisfying the concerns of residents who object to the vehicles being parked in their neighborhoods," Forgey said. "I don't have a true preference; neither option is going to satisfy everybody.

"I gathered information on what other cities do, but this is one of those instances where Albany must do what works for Albany."

While commissioners sought to find a balance between commerce and aesthetics, it soon became clear that no consensus was forming. Former Realtor Marian Lingle told the commission potential homebuyers who saw large commercial vehicles parked in residential neighborhoods were not likely to locate in those neighborhoods.

"You live in a neighborhood where this is allowed, and you learn pretty quickly how big of an issue it is," Lingle said.

Board member Stephen Kaplan said he wasn't sold on either of the two options Forgey presented, noting that an amendment allowing commercial vehicles to park in residential neighborhoods for four hours (rather than the eight under current law) was "no more than a Band-Aid."

Commissioner Helen Young at one point said, "I can't do this. This is beyond me."

Board member Aaron Johnson made a motion to restrict all commercial vehicles, including school buses, from parking in residential areas, but his motion was rejected by a 3-2-1 vote. Billy Merritt then offered a motion to send the issue to the City Commission without a recommendation.

"We need to let them decide," Merritt said.

His motion passed by a 4-2 vote.

"We didn't know we signed on for this," Commission Chairman William Geer quipped after the vote. Following the meeting, he added, "I feel we were overburdened in this instance. Maybe this should have been handled by someone with more professional experience in this area.

"We're here for planning and zoning issues, and this is not really a planning and zoning matter. Maybe it should go through the city's legal department."