During a recent meeting of the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners, members discussed ways the county could work with cities to solve problems related to development along city limit lines.
Following an overview of the issues that can arise during development on land within a city that borders unincorporated Cherokee from Principal Planner Margaret Stallings, commissioners discussed ways the county and cities could work together on this in the future.
One reason for the discussion came from Commissioner Corey Ragsdale, who said there was a recent case in Woodstock where a commercial property under development within the city limits bordered a residential neighborhood in unincorporated Cherokee County. As such, he was interested in coming up with a way to have a discussion with the city and/or developer.
In instances such as this, Ragsdale said he would like to sit down and talk with developers on how they plan to position commercial buildings, where things such as truck bays would be located, if they are putting up proper levels of screening and how they plan to integrate with neighboring communities, among other things. When he sits down to meet with developers, Ragsdale said he is not trying to force them into doing anything specific, but instead asking them if they would be willing to more closely match county guidelines on the sides of property under development that touches unincorporated county land. With the discussion being primarily explaining how things would be done if the property was in the county and not one of its cities, and asking them if they might consider this on the specific boundaries, Ragsdale said he has yet to run into a developer who is not willing to sit down and engage in the discussion.
Building off of Ragsdale’s idea, one suggestion Commissioner Benny Carter had was to have the commissioner for the district in which such development would take place to talk with city officials, ask how the county could have been made aware of the situation and see what response comes from the city. Although Carter admitted this could be challenging to do, he said he felt this would be a fairly good starting point to talk with city officials about how the county could have had some communication or notice about the situation.
Commission Chairman Harry Johnston said one goal he would like to achieve is joint planning abilities with all of the cities in the county. At the same time, he commended Stallings for her successes in working with the city of Holly Springs, while also reiterating how there is still an effective growth boundary agreement in place with the city of Canton. Although the boundary agreement has been working, Johnston did say he felt it could be even stronger, becoming a joint plan between the two entities moving forward.
Along with this, Johnston asked Ragsdale what would be a trigger for future conversations with developers, with Ragsdale replying developers would reach out to the board directly, or when an application for development is submitted.
In order to keep the county from potentially being overwhelmed by having talks with developers on projects bordering unincorporated Cherokee County, Ragsdale said there were certain instances that might not require conversations of this sort, while Carter put forth the idea of having specific parameters that had to be met, such as the size and acreage or the density of the property involved in the project.
Although engaging in such conversation does appear to be a worthwhile endeavor, Stallings said not all the cities in the county put information of this regard on their respective websites, and thus the county might have to rely on the cities notifying them when such applications are submitted for consideration.