Public raise concerns surrounding multifamily development ordinance

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BLAIRSVILLE, Ga – At the second reading of the multifamily development ordinance, several Union County residents expressed concern about apartments/townhome complexes.

The new section of the building ordinance establishes rules and regulations for multifamily housing. Previously, Union County didn’t have protocols set for these units.

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

The proposed addition spells out maximum structural height, minimum building setbacks, building accessibility, bumpers, road entrance requirements, and fire hydrant location.

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.

Paris said people were rightly concerned about the possibility of apartment developments, and the ordinance is trying to prevent multifamily housing from rapidly expanding in the county. When the moratorium on multifamily developments was put into place in 2019, four developers had asked about building apartments in Union County. Currently, only one apartment complex is in process.

Sole Commissioner Lamar Paris

The majority of apartments exist within Blairsville city limits because it has a sewer system.

“No apartments can be built without the city of Blairsville approving the sewer system,” Paris commented.

Citizens expressed concern about Blairsville turning into Blue Ridge with townhomes on Main Street. The ordinance will make it “more difficult” for developers building within the county, but those seeking to build in the city will follow city council regulations.

The city and county haven’t met yet about water and sanitation cost increases associated with more housing units in a community. Paris promised they would have one in the future.

As traffic and construction start back up, the county believed now is the time to address multifamily developments and ensure guidelines are in place before any potential developer tries to build an apartment complex.

“We’re not trying to totally stop it. We’re trying to make it safe so it’s not a taxpayer burden once they’re done in the future,” Paris added.

He also stated that if the county experiences an influx of multifamily development requests, it will possibly strengthen the ordinance.

A local real estate agent stated that Union County doesn’t offer affordable housing to many of its residents who work in the service industry, and it needs to focus on more than retirees.

Inspection, Fire Department, the state regional commission, and an outside firm work together to address building codes. Many in Union County are against zoning and Paris wants to keep the citizens’ property rights intact.

TVA and U.S. Forest Service own approximately 50 percent of Union County and around 20 percent is farmland.

Several north Georgia counties are facing similar growth issues with an influx of people hoping to move to the mountains. Each is trying to determine the best path forward for their residents.

The meeting to adopt the new ordinance will take place on June 1 at 5 p.m. at the courthouse.

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