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Albany-Dougherty Planning Commission signs off on variances, land use application

Board tables proposed city parking regulations package

ALBANY — The Albany-Dougherty Planning Commission OK’d a land development application and two variance requests at its monthly meeting Thursday before offering mixed support for a pair of text amendments that will impact citizens in the city.

The board voted to OK a number of changes to the Riverfront overlay ordinance that specifically relates to regulation of mobile food vendors in the historic downtown district, but it balked at approving a proposed residential parking ordinance package.

“This reads like calculus to me,” board member Billy Merritt said of the parking package presented by Planning Director Paul Forgey. “I’m not prepared to vote on this matter after seeing it for the first time. I need more time to look at it. I suggest we take it up again at our next meeting.”

The board voted 6-0 to table the parking regulations which Forgey said “offers not much new but puts all the city’s parking ordinances in one place.” The planning director did point out one change to existing parking regulations.

“The city currently allows up to 30 percent of a residence’s front yard to be used for parking,” Forgey said. “The new restrictions say only 25 percent may be used for parking.”

Overlay ordinance changes OK’d by the board for forwarding to the Albany City Commission include regulations that would govern mobile food vendors operating downtown, building facades not on a list of streets currently regulated by the ordinance and a maximum 180-day requirement to open establishments granted alcohol licenses by the city of Albany. The intent of that rule, Forgey told the board, is to keep property owners from obtaining alcohol licenses with no intent of opening businesses but to keep other potential property owners from opening establishments at adjacent property.

The change would require the establishment to open within 180 days of obtaining the license with a one-time 60-day extension. After that, the license would be revoked.

The board voted 6-0 to allow Rhema International Ministries to construct a 4,000-square-foot administration building for its existing religious institution located in an R-2 (single-family residential) District. The structure would be built at 1715 W. Oakridge Drive property owned by the ministry.

The Planning Commission also gave unanimous approval to variances that will allow for reduced setbacks on property at 1300 Owens Ave. in the new Saint John’s Estates development and a request by Conny O. Turner to allow a small “family church” on .5 acres of land rather than the required 1 acre.

Staff recommended approval of the setback variance in the Saint John’s Estates development because the property had originally been built as federal military housing that was not subject to local ordinances. Only eight of the 50 homes in the tract met setback requirements.

“I want you to know we did as good a job as we can to draw lot lines that would meet the setback requirements,” Tod Lanier with Lanier Engineering told the commission. “With existing housing, it’s really difficult. But the development group has done a really nice job out there.”

Before the vote, board Chairman William Geer reminded members, “This is a variance, so we will not be voting to send this to the City Commission. We have the final say on this matter.”

Planner Rozanne Braswell told the commission staff had found no reason to deny Turner’s request to locate the family church on property at 714 Highland Ave., saying the move would do no harm to adjacent property.

Former City Commissioner David Williams spoke on behalf of approving the request.

“The idea of this request is neighborhood improvement,” the former commissioner said. “The idea is part of a revitalization plan that will improve that neighborhood tremendously.”

In other business, the commission agreed to move its July meeting to July 8 (from a previously planned July 10) so that the City Commission will have time to consider its recommendations before taking action.