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After months of discussions, debates, drafts, and public hearings, the Morgan County Board of Commissioners finally voted to overhaul regulations for new subdivision developments, voting to enact sweeping changes designed to “preserve the historic context” of the county. The moratorium on subdivision development has officially ended and new standards have been adopted.

However, the vote was not unanimous. The BOC was split after County Planning Director Chuck Jarrell finished presenting the most up-to-date version of proposed changes to subdivision developments in each zoning district throughout the county.

The split came down to the tension between preserving Morgan County’s rural character and protecting property owner rights.

Commissioners Andy Ainslie and Bill Kurtz voted in favor of the changes. Commissioners Donald Harris and Ben Riden voted against it. The tie was broken by Chairman Philipp von Hanstein who voted to approve the changes to subdivision development standards.

While the new changes designate new kinds of subdivisions, increase required minimum lot sizes, limit the number of parcels depending on the zoning district and beef up road frontage setback requirements, the heart of the subdivision development standards is protect Morgan County’s historic character and prevent overcrowded developments from cropping up along county roadways.

“We want to get these houses off our main roads to reduce congestions on the roads and to get the development back off the roads,” said Jarrell at Tuesday’s BOC meeting.

“We will encourage development that advances Morgan County’s economy and housing options and is sensitive to the historic context, sense of place and overall setting of Morgan County. It is our setting the makes our county so special.”

Jarrell presented the proposed regulations aiming to curb unwanted subdivision developments and giving the county stricter control over the process of approved subdivisions.

The proposed regulations set out standards for the Agriculture Residential (AR) Zoning District, the Agriculture (AG) Zoning District, and the Low Density Residential (R1) Zoning District, increasing minimum lot size requirements, limiting the number of developable lots, increasing road frontage setbacks and buffers and requiring more greenspace to be preserved permanently for new subdivision developments projects. Any subdivision developments in AG must have a minimum of five acre lots. AR requires two acre minimum lots. The new regulations would limit road frontage subdivisions to no more than three lots.

After an increase of subdivision developments inside the county in the last few years, commissioners tasked planning staff to revise the ordinance to better regulate subdivision projects. A 90-day moratorium was implemented in October 2020 to give planning staff time to rework the zoning ordinance to address the current lacking standards. Jarrell pointed to recent subdivision developments along Brownwood Road, Fears Road, and Sandy Creek as evidence of the recent high demand for new residential subdivisions in the county. The moratorium postponed at least five potential subdivisions projects in the works.

Since then, county planning staff has researched subdivision restrictions and regulation options, crafting a complete overhaul of the county subdivision standards, proposing their recommendations on Tuesday, Jan. 5 for the first time. Morgan County has uploaded the proposed changes to their website. To read the full, up-to-date changes, visit www.morganga.org.

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