Euharlee Road Corridor Design Overlay tabbed for May council vote

Euharlee council hears first reading of overlay district ordinance

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The term “ERCDO” may sound like gibberish now, but if things pan out for the City of Euharlee, it could become the municipality’s guiding force for economic development for the foreseeable future.

As Euharlee Planning and Zoning Administrator Charles Reese explained at Tuesday evening’s work session, ERCDO is an acronym for “Euharlee Road Corridor Design Overlay.” Documents displayed by Reese show the proposed corridor spanning from the road’s intersection with McCormick Road all the way up to Woodland Middle School.

“Given that the sewer has come in, we do know that development is on its way,” Reese said during a first reading of the proposal. “This overlay ordinance, this is only a tool — I want to emphasize that — it is a tool of controls, an extra layer of zoning that we can use for the future development that’s coming in.”

Reese’s documents also describe areas north of Euharlee Road and north of McCormick Road as possible industrial development corridors.

“When we say ‘industrial park,’ we’re not talking factories and what have you,” he said. “We’re talking about professionals who come in — it could be telemarketers, engineers.”

Reese also pinpointed spots west of the bridge — across the street from The Westminster and The Cliffs communities — as well as the area in between Woodland Middle and the Etowah River Bridge as potential sites for mixed-use and planned unit developments.

“So what we’re doing is taking a proactive approach, not a reactive approach,” Reese said. “We don’t want a bunch of chicken farmers who go all up and down Euharlee Road, right? We want to not only control what’s coming in, but how it looks, and we also want to make sure that it’s in harmony with what is going to be planned in terms of the vision for downtown Euharlee.”

Reese described the overlay district ordinance as “a regulatory tool that creates a special zoning district placed over an existing zoning district which identifies special provisions of the community.”

The ordinance, Reese said, wouldn’t just foster economic development — he also said it would help the City protect its natural resources and maintain “the character” of its downtown area.

“We are a rural, bedroom community. People come from all over just to see the Covered Bridge, we have tournaments out here, we have tourists, we have the Etowah River,” he said. “Basically, what this ordinance would help us do is be able to control any of that development that’s going to come in that can kind of enhance what we already have.”

Reese said the ordinance proposal was partly inspired by the Highway 92 corridor in Roswell, in particular, its symmetrical building design standards.

If approved by council, the ordinance would create stricter standards for architecture, parking and paving design, landscaping and signage within the corridor. While existing properties would be considered “non-conforming” under the ordinance, Reese also said those properties would be grandfathered in if it was to take effect.

“It is critical that the zoning protections offer clear guidance to both property owners and governing bodies charged with approving proposals,” he said. “Zoning requirements must be applied equally for all properties within the district, so we want to make sure that whatever zoning that we have, it fits for what we envision that area to look like.”

Under the ordinance, the City’s planning and zoning commission would effectively double as a newly established corridor design commission.

“This function plays a role of development authority as part of the development review process administered by the zoning department,” he said. “This role is really no different than what they do already … anything that comes in would have to go through the city council first for approval.”

When it comes to the site development process, Reese said he would be the one doing most of the “legwork.” However, he said final decisions on developments would still hinge on a council vote. 

“If the language needs to be changed, I can change it,” he said, “but I think about 95%, 97% of property along this corridor will all have to be rezoned again.”

The ordinance would also require developers to obtain “certificates of appropriateness” before projects can get underway.

“That’s a role that the historic preservation committee has as well,” Reese said. “If somebody wanted to change the facade of a building, it has to go through the historic preservation committee. This is pretty much saying the same thing … they will get a certificate of appropriateness from myself and the commission in terms of all the other added bells and whistles that goes with the development.”

If implemented, Reese said he’s optimistic that the ordinance could help transform Euharlee Road into Bartow’s next great development corridor.

“Instead of somebody just coming into the planning and zoning commission and to the mayor and council and saying ‘OK, this is what we’re doing, just rezone it from [agricultural] to commercial’ … now there’s going to be extra steps,” he said. “It’s not the run of the mill ‘Oh, we’re going to build a 2,500-square-foot house.' No, we’re going to build a couple of nice condos with a pool, and a nice lobster restaurant to go with it.”

And the ramped up development, he said, could also prove beneficial for the City’s infrastructure and existing amenities.

“This overlay ordinance is intended to be a guide into which control the future development coming to our community while maintaining the integrity of our significant, historical and natural resources and character,” he said. “And who knows? If this ordinance were to be approved and once we have our future development come in, it may force the State to widen that bridge.”

A second reading of the proposed ordinance is required before the city council may vote on the matter. The next reading is scheduled for a Euharlee City Hall public meeting at 30 Burge’s Mill Road at 7 p.m. on May 7.