ELLIJAY, Ga. – After months of debate, revisits, revisions, and deliberations, the Board of Commissioners is advertising its Land Development Ordinance changes as proposed in Version 9 for the county. Citizens are now able to see what the final document could look like if approved in both May and June.
After the months of preparation and details surrounding other minor details like standardizing and limiting personal driveway slopes to maintain access for public safety vehicles and emergency services, the county almost hit a tenth version as discussion continued onto the subject of workforce housing returning to the subject brought up by the Greater Gilmer JDA (Joint Devel0pment Authority) in recent months and years.
The topic was broached with discussion of high density housing through apartments and similar structures to provide affordable housing to working citizens supporting the community. It was noted these structures would need to be closer to the cities as they would require water and sewer access. The subject touched on drastically reducing the restrictions on the highest density residential zonings to support such structures and relying on the need for water/sewer access rather than wells, septic tanks, and similar options used by more of the unincorporated areas of the county.
However, full details were not delved into and discussed as the board sought to broach this subject later and no longer delay the main changes to the Land Development Ordinance that has been in process for months.
The board spoke of discussing the subject with the Planning and Zoning board as well as others involved including developers.
Additionally, Kent Sanford, Greater Gilmer JDA Executive Director, thanked the board this month as he spoke during the Citizens Wishing to Speak. He noted that demographics in Gilmer are continuing to show increasing retirement age citizens. However, Sanford said the county still needs more workforce housing and thanked the board for considering that.
One counterpoint came in the discussion saying that easing restrictions and allowing such density could still result in constructed “luxury apartments” that would still be unaffordable to many people working local jobs.
With more discussion to come and this topic not included in the current version, the board is looking at options to restrict or encourage affordable housing over luxury style.
The current version of the Land Development Ordinance is not in place yet, and even if final approval comes in June, the board is also looking to not implement these changes until at least 2022 or possibly one year from approval. No formal date has been set yet, but will be set before approvals come in May and June.
Post Commissioner Karleen Ferguson also told citizens that this was not the only look into affordable housing as she shared she will be attending a meeting in the coming week on the topic looking for answers in the county.
As the “final version” of land development moves through its process, the board’s continued discussion is indicating that the current changes may complete soon, but it will not be the end of the discussions on housing in the county.