Feaga abandons his compromise on Fulton site

January 25, 1993|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff Writer

Residents wanting to slow the county's growth rate should get good news and bad news at tonight's County Council work session.

Their good news is that a majority of council members plan to reduce the number of residential units to be built in the decade beginning in 1996 by at least 17 percent.

Their bad news is that Councilman Charles C. Feaga, R-5th, has abandoned his proposal to delete a mixed-use designation for an 820-acre site in Fulton from the 1990 general plan.

The council had intended to discuss the proposal at tonight's work session, but Mr. Feaga asked that it be taken off the agenda. He said he will ask the council to table his proposal -- and thus kill it -- when the council meets in legislative session Feb. 1.

Tabling is a procedure legislative bodies use when they want to defer consideration of legislation to a specific time or when they want to cut off debate on a proposal and bury it without voting it up or down.

During recent zoning hearings, residents vigorously opposed putting shops, houses, apartments and businesses closely together on what is now a farm at U.S. 29 and Route 216 in accordance with the general plan.

Many wanted the general plan rescinded and a new one drawn up.

Mr. Feaga offered what he thought was "a great compromise" that would delete the mixed-use designation from the general plan and replace it with mostly residential development.

Under the mixed-use concept, eight houses per acre could be built on the Fulton property. Mr. Feaga's proposal called for two houses per acre. The current zoning is one house per three acres.

Most of the 21 people testifying on Mr. Feaga's proposal at a public hearing last week said it didn't go far enough.

They wanted no commercial zoning -- Mr. Feaga's proposal would have allowed employment center zoning on about 50 acres -- and they wanted residential zoning of no more than one house per three acres.

That was more than Mr. Feaga was willing to do. "I can't go the distance they want me to go," he said. "I thought I offered a great compromise that would have support from the council."

Council Chairwoman Shane Pendergrass, meanwhile, is expected to find support tonight for an amendment that would reduce the number of housing units allowed under a planning and zoning department proposal for the 1996-2006 decade.

The numbers don't pass her common sense test, Ms. Pendergrass, D-1st, told Joseph W. Rutter Jr., the planning and zoning director, last week in a public hearing on the department's proposal. Although the 1990 general plan calls for a rolling average of 2,500 new residential units a year, the planning and zoning department projects much more than that: 2,740 units a year from 1996 to 1999; 2,985 units in 2000; and 3,000 units a year from 2001 to 2004.

The numbers drop off to 2,200 units in 2005 and 1,877 units in 2006, but the 10-year total still amounts to 30,022 units, 5,022 more than projected in the general plan.

Council members are looking to scale back those numbers to a maximum of 2,500 a year, or 25,000 for the decade.

The planning and zoning department is required to determine the number of new housing units that will be allowed in each school district over a 10-year period and to make population projections based on that information.

The population projections are given to the school board for use in determining what schools need to be built. If, based on those projections, an elementary school would be 20 percent above its capacity, the area would be closed to development for four years.

Ms. Pendergrass expressed concern at last week's hearing that the planning department and the school system appear to be presenting a growth plan that would cause many schools to be overcrowded, but not overcrowded enough to slow development.

The policy of allowing an elementary school to operate nearly 20 percent above capacity was designed for extreme situations, she said, yet appears to becoming the county norm.

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