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County PDP plan: 10,000-square-foot lots too big, say developers

By SARAH FAY CAMPBELL | June 25, 2021


Click here to read article on the Newnan Times Herald.


Members of the development community expressed their thoughts about Coweta's proposal to allow higher density residential development at a public hearing this week, and everyone has the opportunity to weigh in through July 5.


A survey on the proposal can be taken at Cowetaplans.com . The survey includes an overview of the proposal.


Higher density residential development would take the form of a PDP -- planned development project. The PDP would be an overlay zoning district, and as such, would require a rezoning vote by the Coweta County Board of Commissioners. All PDPs would have to be served by public sewer.


Many speakers at the public information meeting who work in the development and real estate industry panned the proposal for minimum lot sizes of 10,000 square feet -- 0.22 acres -- saying that it was too large.


Instead, they wanted to see a minimum lot size of 7,500 square feet, -- 0.17 acres -- which is the smallest lot that the city of Newnan allows in a typical detached single-family neighborhood. In developments deemed "urban neighborhoods," the city allows a lot size as small as 4,500 square feet -- 0.1 acres.


The county's proposed maximum density is 3.5 units per acre, which is a bit lower than the city's maximum density. The city has various residential zoning districts, with densities ranging from 1.5 units per acre to eight units per acre for single-family homes.


Some speakers expressed doubt that the developments would never be able to actually attain the 3.5 units per acre density with the lot sizes and other requirements.


With the 10,000-square-foot lots, developments wouldn't contain a large amount of open space, and several commenters suggested smalls lots with more open space. These kinds of developments are also cheaper to build, as roads, water and sewer lines and other infrastructure are in a smaller area.


When the county's land development guidance system was first proposed, all undeveloped land in the county was assigned a point value and sorted into four tiers, with different proposed allowable densities. That was then changed to three tiers, with the areas closet to cities and infrastructure being identified for higher density.


But that map was never adopted, and the current LDGS map only has two tiers. Under current ordinances, adopted in 2020, land in the lowest tier can be developed in 5-acre lots. The second tier, with point values of six and higher, can be developed at a density equal to 1.6 units per acre - the same development style and density that has been in effect in Coweta County since 2006.


Under the proposal presented this week, any property in the higher tier, with at lease six points -- or a property that abuts a municipality -- would be eligible for consideration. That doesn't mean it would get approved -- or even make it to the commissioners.


Instead, each tract and plan would be scored based on various characteristics, including the need for transportation improvements to serve the development. The scoring matrix would also incorporate how the Coweta County School System feels about the development.


Whether or not a project moves forward to the commissioners will depend in large part on the impact the project would have on traffic, and any measures to mitigate that impact, said Community Development Director Jon Amason. "What we have heard overwhelmingly from the public is that developers should pay for the mitigation improvements and not the citizens," he said.


Coweta's comprehensive plan is currently being updated, and the work on the plan divides the county into three tiers: rural conservation, growth maintenance and growth priority. During the public meetings, there was a growth priority map that showed a much larger growth priority area than the earlier version of the LDGS. But the map has now shifted to an alternative, with a smaller growth property area.


Local attorney George Rosenzweig, who had brought his own higher density plan, the "Newnan Ring" to the commissioners last year, asked about the growth priority map and how it fits into the higher density PDP plan.


As the plan is currently envisioned, it doesn't.


The comprehensive plan work is still ongoing, and the plan won't be finalized for a few months. The commissioners asked to have the PDP plan ready for public hearing in July.


"Because this is going through the process quicker than the comp plan, we kind of had to leave that behind and stick to our base map," Amazon said. "We don't want to get our cart before the horse, so this is sort of where we are right now."


Rosenzweig expressed concern about having the school system comments be part of the scoring system. "It is just hard to imagine the school board ever saying, 'Please build this subdivision,'" he said. Having a score docked because the school system opposes it would make more sense than docking points if the school system doesn't support it, he said. He also said he wouldn't be in too big of a hurry to set up a grading scale because developers might propose improvement as a condition of rezoning.


Gene Murphy is a commercial real estate developer and urged the commissioners to keep the higher density developments near interstate exchanges.


"If you're trying to get traffic off the secondary roads, that's the best way to do it," Murphy said.


Murphy said the majority of people are going to be getting to the interstate to go to places and then coming back.


Putting the high density near the interchanges is critical to avoid making the traffic problem worse, he said.


Two speakers talked about the need for less expensive housing options than what is currently being built in Coweta.


Larry Singleton is with the Microlife Institute which builds small neighborhoods with a cluster of small homes that are more affordable.


Real estate agent Van Mottola talked about the current state of the real estate market.


"I'm afraid we are freezing out a portion of our community from being homeowners. There is no supply of homes that match your middle class workforce," said Mottola.


He is seeing homes go on the market within an hour his phone starts ringing from people wanting to see them.


"As we come down into prices points where the housing is more matched up to the workforce, it gets a lot more desperate," he said, because there are so few homes available.


"We are seeing a lot of people who are giving up on searching for housing," Mottola said.


The county allows higher density for those 55 and older -- and those homes are still $300,000 and up.


But there's no option for density for homes for younger people in the county. Mottola said he hopes that "as we work through this that we deliver housing that the community needs."


The public hearing before the commissioners will be held as part of the July 13 county commission meeting. For more information go to cowetaplans.com .