Active adult ordinance fails in Palmetto

Mon, 08/13/2007 - 8:51am
By: Ben Nelms

It was nothing short of a coup Tuesday at Palmetto City Council when a proposed amendment to the zoning ordinance establishing an active adult residential (R-AA) zoning district failed on a 3-4 vote. Those opposed said the reason for the failed vote rested on Palmetto’s history of high density zoning and the proposed ordinance’s lack of language to enforce the 55 and older age requirement.

Discussions of the proposed R-AA amendment began several months ago, with all on the council agreeing that such a zoning category was needed but with a disagreement on how to word the language in the ordinance so that 55 and older developments could remain undisturbed. Also in those and other conversations, including those applicable to future residential development, some on the council took the position that the city should explore a revamping of city development codes.

As proposed, the R-AA zoning district included provisions for attached and detached homes. The maximum density for detached homes is five units per acre, while attached homes could be increased to eight homes per acre. Two-bedroom homes require a minimum of 1,000 square feet, while those with three or more bedrooms must be at least 1,200 square feet. All homes are required to have two-car garages.

Speaking Tuesday night, Councilwoman Joyce Baker spoke in favor of approving the amendment, noting that, “I fell like we’ll be doing the senior’s a disservice is we didn’t do this for them.”

Prior to the vote Mayor Clark Boddie said other counties and cities in metro Atlanta had approved similar active adult ordinances. If passed, the ordinance would provide a way for some of the city’s older adults not wishing to maintain a larger homes to have another residential option and remain in Palmetto.

Councilman John Miller agreed with the need for additional choices for seniors but insisted that other requirements needed to be in place prior to adopting the zoning amendment. Language in the amendment could be changed to prevent the 55 and older requirement from slipping away over time.

“Palmetto has a need for retirement options, but my concern is that this (ordinance) allows more density with no mechanism in place to keep it a retirement community,” Miller said Tuesday. “We need to look at zoning as a whole, like with the LCI (Livable Centers Initiative) program, and come up with a solution that benefits the whole community.”

The motion failed on a 3-4 vote, with Boddie, Baker and Councilman Thomas Morrow supporting the motion while Miller and Councilmen Jeff Yasson, Leon Sumlin and Gregory Rusch voted against the measure.

Many past votes in Palmetto, as in some other cities, went the way seemingly preferred by Boddie. That benchmark began change after the November 2005 elections, when Miller, Rusch and Yasson challenged three incumbents and were elected to the council. More recently, Sumlin has sided with the three newer council members on issues such as residential density, the hiring of additional police officers and meeting recreation needs.

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