By Leila Dycus intern

The Morgan County Planning Commission met for a work session on Friday, March 21, to discuss two applications related to relocating the zoo that is being planned for Morgan County. Chuck Jarrell presented the first request from Mike Conrads to rezone three parcels of property located on Highway 83 just south of Interstate 20 from agricultural residential (AR) to general agricultural (AG).

Planning Commission members expressed concern about allowing zoos in residential areas. Jarrell responded that zoos are often located in residential areas, giving the Atlanta zoo as an example. According to Jarrell there is no indication that zoos affect residential areas.

Members stated that, if this request were not for a zoo, there would be no question in approving the zoning change from AR to AG. However, since the request deals with a zoo the commission was forced to raise additional questions. Mike Conrads will make the presentation providing additional information in support of rezoning of the land for the purposed zoo at the Planning Commission’s regular meeting on Thursday, March 27, where commission members and the public will be able to ask further questions. If the zoning ordinance for the zoo does not pass in Thursday’s meeting the project will not be able to move forward.

The second request was for a conditional use permit for a zoo on the property dealt with in the first request. The zoo was originally planned for property on Highway 83 in south Morgan County near Jasper County.

The zoo was approved in that location, but, after the project began to receive opposition, Michael Vaden, who is designing the zoo along with his partner Bill Killmer, began to look for new location. Vaden selected the property discussed in the first application, which extends back to Clack Road, as a possible location for the zoo.

The property would allow for a “safari” experience at the zoo, as well as a walk through zoo and event facility. Vaden is currently working with Georgia Civil and the Department of Transportation to come up with a design that will limit traffic issues created by its proximity to the interstate.

Currently there are cattle on the property. Other points brought up in the discussion included no public entrances being located on Clack Road, the use of well water and a septic center. Commission members expressed concern regarding public entrances on Clack Road, the use of well water and a septic center, and fencing for the animals. Therewould have to be an eight-foot fence with barbed wire on the top and regular cattle fencing for domestic animals.

Regular cattle fencing consist of hog wire with two strands of barbed wire. The commission members were concerned about the fencing and the animals getting out. Chairman Brian Lehman encouraged the other members to ask these questions of Killmer and Vaden at the public meeting.

The zoning and conditional use permit requests will be discussed at the Planning Commission on Thursday, March 27, in their regular meeting, which will begin at 7 p.m.