The Cherokee County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday heard from area residents at its most recent meeting as the board held three public hearings on zoning modifications.

The first case to come before the board dealt with a request from Next Step Ministries, asking the county to allow for the expansion of the facilities on site, building a new structure totaling just over 16,000 square feet. Next Step Founder and Executive Director Lori Baker said the place the ministry currently occupies is an excellent location in a quiet neighborhood, which is something she said was needed for many of the clients Next Step serves. Not only does the ministry help residents of Cherokee County who have special needs, but also Cobb County and the northern portions of Fulton County, and with so many clients, limitations on the current space have caused Next Step to put people on a waiting list for services.

“We are asking for the three floors (two stories and a basement) because that will give us room, we figure over the next 10 years, to provide service to our folks,” Baker said, adding that if the ministry built out its current facility to the allowed 10,000 square feet of space, it would be up to three quarters full of clients from the outset.

During the hearing, three residents from the surrounding community addressed the board. All three said Next Step Ministries offers a needed service, however, all three said they felt allowing an expansion to 16,200 square feet was out of character for the area.

“There’s no doubt what the service that’s provided is a great need,” Commissioner Ray Gunnin said after the public hearing was closed. “It’s a hard one for me, but I’m just going to have to say that, that size building is not suited for that area.”

A motion to deny the application for modification was then approved in a unanimous vote.

The second case surrounded the McAlister’s Deli on Eagle Drive, with the restaurant’s owners asking for a zoning modification that would allow them to install a pick-up window on the building. A restaurant representative said the window is different than a drive-through in that it is only for customers who placed call-in orders or orders through the deli’s app to pick up their orders. The restaurant’s owner shared a petition signed by more than 100 patrons wanting to see the window added, along with several patrons who shared their support online. Three residents signed up to speak, all of whom were in strong support of the measure.

When making his motion, Commissioner Corey Ragsdale said, “I think the main argument here is the distinction between pick-up window and drive-through, and it’s clear that this is not a drive-through as described in the resolution from 1996. So, because of that, and also in the spirit of promoting local business during the current situation we’re in, I would make a motion that we approve the modification.”

Ragsdale’s motion was passed in a unanimous vote.

The final public hearing involved land owned by Meritage Homes located on New Light Road. A number of variances had been granted in 2016 when the county denied allowing the land to be rezoned from agricultural, including allowing for ways the lot could be subdivided for residential development. Representing the case, attorney Parks Huff said the request came about as result of a mathematical error, stating each of the two proposed lots on the property would be required to be at least 0.27 acres in size, when the property as a whole was only 0.47 acres in total. The only question of the hearing came from Commissioner Benny Carter, who asked if the two lots would be part of the subdivision across the street, with Huff answering that they would. With nobody signed up to speak either in favor of or in opposition to the zoning modification, the board unanimously moved to approve the request.

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