Union County introduces multifamily development ordinance

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BLAIRSVILLE, Ga – At the April meeting, the new multifamily development ordinance was presented to those in attendance.

Long in process, the ordinance will need a public hearing and second reading before becoming local law. The new section will be added to the existing code. In the measure, it outlines the minimum standards, perimeter buffers, road regulations, gates, speed bumps, and fire hydrants for multifamily homes.

See the entire ordinance here

“As more and more apartment complexes are being built in Union County, it was determined there needed to be specific rules and regulations for their construction. This was due to the impact on county roads and the impact they could potentially have on emergency services,” Sole Commissioner Lamar Paris explained.

A moratorium was placed on multifamily developments/ apartment complexes on August 6, 2019, while the county worked on this ordinance. Once COVID-19 hit, the measure took a backseat until the Union returned to some normalcy.

Defined as a structure that can house five or more units, but limited to no more than 100 units, multifamily units can’t exceed a height of 40 feet from the highest point to the lowest exposed exterior point. Parapet walls can be no more than five feet and are included in the 40 feet.

Multifamily apartment complexes must be 1,000 feet apart from each other and independent structures must be 25 feet apart. The minimum setbacks are from the rear of the property 40 feet, 30 feet from the side, 20 feet from the front with no parking, and 40 feet from the front with parking, sidewalk, and yard.

All structures will have a keypad or knox box for emergency use by the Union County Fire Department and EMA. Landscaping and other site services will be instructed to allow emergency vehicles immediate access to the structure’s perimeter. Emergency and fire services access to the structure must be approved by the building department. No overhead obstructions are allowed at the building’s entrance or anywhere that will inhibit emergency vehicles.

A 20-foot buffer will be required along the entire perimeter of the property and 25 feet along all adjacent property lines. The area will feature landscaping, trees, and shrubbery. These areas can’t contain driveways, parking, patios, storm-water detention facilities, or any other accessories except a fence, wall, or berm. The buffer can’t include exists or proposed roads, private streets, or right of way.

A six-foot property screen consisting of existing vegetation, supplemental vegetation, or structural buffer will be required. The landscape plan should prohibit clear-cutting with minimal land disturbance and protection of natural terrain. The ordinance spells out a preference for natural terrain when possible. Trees and shrubs need to be local to the area and planted trees will be spaced 30 feet apart. Evergreen shrubs will be planted five to eight feet on center.

Plants can spread the entire range of the buffer and not in a straight line as long as the screening requirements are met. Vegetation maturity must be met within three years. Fences and freestanding walls should contribute to the property’s décor.

Roads should be a minimum of 24 feet with a six-inch deep gravel base. The maximum grade for roads is 16 percent and any grade in excess of 10 percent must be paved. A minimum of 15-inch culverts should be installed to prevent flooding at lot access points and drainage areas.

Road intersections will require right in lanes for multifamily development which are a minimum of 50 feet.

Any installation of fire hydrants must follow the public water system. Hydrants need 500 feet of spacing for needed fire flow of 500 gpm but 250 for NFF over 5,000. The taps can’t be obstructed by any vegetation or structure that would impair visibility within a distance of 150 feet.

Paris advised anyone with questions to contact his office. He added that they want to know of any concerns.

Proposed removal of Ch. 82 Article 2 of Code of Ordinance – Speed Zone Ordinance

Every year Georgia Department of Transportation provided the county with a speed zone ordinance and lists all the proposed speeds for state roads. Union County approves and sends the signed copy back to GDOT. It’s necessary for local law enforcement to enforce speed limits using radar.

The county’s removing the language from the local code because it’s not a union county ordinance. However, in 1992, the administration believed it had to go into the code of ordinance. GDOT and county attorney advised the current administration that it does not need to be in the code.

GDOT sets and/or changes speed zones every year for state roads, not the county. Based on the recommendation from GDOT and the county attorney, Union County has decided to remove it from local ordinances.

The public hearing for the matter is scheduled for May 6 at 5:30 p.m. and the second reading and adoption will be on May 20 at 6 p.m.


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