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2006-04-26
Canton, GA. Developer Tries To Slip In Plan Before Ordinance Limits

Residents in Canton, Georgia have launched an effort to stop a developer who is consciously trying to thwart the efforts of local officials to manage growth in their town. Here is the report from the Cherokee Coalition for Responsible Growth: "Wolverton & Associates has submitted a site plan for a 184,257 sq. ft. store across the street from an elementary school and within close proximity of 2 other public schools. It's primary entrance/exit is right across from the entrance to the elementary school. The area is surrounded by 2 two-lane county roads and 1 two-lane state road. Traffic is congested during rush hour. This is a rural to semi-rural area in the unincorporated part of Cherokee County, Georgia. Our roads are over-capacity and our schools are overcrowded. A superstore will create an additional nuisance and compromise safety. Wolverton & Associates is playing coy with our local leaders and community about who it's representing. We suspect its Wal-Mart. They also submitted a site plan and application for a land disturbance permit one day before a highly publicized vote for a county big box ordinance which limits square footage to 80,000 for any developments along two-lane roads or within 1/2 mile of a school. It now says that it's spent millions to scope the site and draw plans and believes that it should be grandfathered in since the ordinance passed the day after plans were submitted. We have four of the five commissioners saying publicly that they will uphold the newly-passed ordinance. There is an election this summer and three of the five commissioners are up for re-election. Public pressure holds special significance. The land has already been re-zoned for commercial. At the time of rezoning, the community asked for a maximum square footage of 50,000 and 13 other conditions. Wolverton got out of the 50,000 square foot maximum by placing its parking lot on the land that was zoned with conditions. The property behind it is where the anchor rests. That property was zoned years earlier with no conditions. This site is part of a 50-acre commercial development. Wolverton's plan rests on 26+ acres with parking and anchor. At the time of zoning, we also asked our board of commissioners to set a master plan for the area that would include sidewalks around the schools, crosswalks, and 4-laning of the county roads. We wanted the developer's conditions to dovetail with the county's responsibility. We believe the county commissioners appear negligent in protecting citizens' rights to be safe in their communities by not implementing this master plan. I have encouraged the community to send e-mails to our commissioners, write letters to the editors of our local papers, organize their neighbors, sign an on-line petition and send to our commissioners, picket the site and invite the press. We designed bumper stickers and are ordering them. We are a grass-roots organization and are financially supporting 2 commission candidates
for re-election."

What you can do: It is not unusual for a developer, once he gets wind of a zoning change that will limit his project in any way, to rush a submission into the Planning Board in order to become "grandfathered." The rules for having a project "vested" before a zoning change takes effect, varies from state to state. In this case, the Cherokee Coalition needs to sit down immediately with a land use attorney (not from their local town) and look at the legal options available to them, and be prepared to sue the city if this project is approved. Without an attorney, the group will not be playing on a level field against the developer, whose arguments will boil down to a legal issue of whether or not he is protected from the new law. The fact that he has spent money on the property has nothing to do with the legal issue. In the meantime, all the other public pressure avenues should be pursued. For local contacts with the Cherokee Coaltion, contact info@sprawl-busters.com










 
 
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