Jeff Watkins

Jeff Watkins

The Cherokee County Planning Commission is considering a set of proposed changes to the county’s conservation design communities ordinance.

The conservation design community portion of the law is dedicated to providing flexibility in preserving green space within planned residential developments, finding a balance of allowing for growth and maintaining nature. This includes maintaining areas like wetlands, natural aquifers, wildlife habitats and unique vistas and preserving the Etowah River and its tributaries as valuable natural resources.

One of the biggest proposed changes in the law is that, for developers to create a new conservation design community, county director of planning and zoning Jeff Watkins said the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners would have to approve the creation of such a community. Along with this, the changes also include making it mandatory for developers to formulate a sketch plat of the property. The list of proposed changes explains that, by making those planning the future development to have a sketch plat in hand, it gets them thinking the plan through in more depth than before.

Two other major changes involve requirements for lot sizes and the total amount of green space having to be provided in a conservation design community.

With regard to lot sizes, the proposed change would make the average lot size come to half that of the traditional lot size that the area under development was zoned for. For example, lots in an area zoned R-40 are traditionally 40,000 square feet in size. Therefore, a conservation design community being developed in an R-40 zone would be required to have an average lot size of 20,000 square feet. At the same time, the law currently states that conservation design communities are required to have 40% of the gross tract acreage designated as green space. According to Watkins, the change to this section of the ordinance would require 40% of the adjusted tract acreage to be designated as green space. By taking the gross tract acreage and then removing natural buffers like streams and relatively steep slopes from this, the adjusted tract acreage would be able to be calculated.

Along with these major changes, the proposal included several that were a bit more minor in scope, such as replacing one table in the law that sets a standard minimum for lot widths and building setbacks. Under the current table, situations have been created where adjacent lots that are only slightly different in size have had different widths and setbacks as a result. Another relatively smaller change involved the design standards for these types of communities, where lots would abut an area of undisturbed green space approximately 50 feet in depth, access to green space land would be provided every 10 lots and two corners of every interior road intersection would have to have a landscaped common area of 900 square feet outside of the right of way.

Watkins said work on these changes has been taking place for some time, and the hope is to get it finalized and sent up to the board of commissioners for its approval in the near future.

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