Walker County Commissioners heard the concerns of several county residents regarding five requested zoning changes. A public hearing on the zoning changes was held during the regularly scheduled commission meeting. The five zoning change requests were as follows:
- SAI Krisna, Inc.: Requests a rezone from CN (Commercial Neighborhood) to C-1 (Commercial) for property located at 9180 W Hwy. 136, Chickamauga, GA, 30707. Tax map and parcel number 00-256-029.
- Green Cross Consulting and Marketing: Requests a rezone from CN to C-1 for property located at 1981/1979 N Hwy. 341, Rossville, GA, 30741. Tax map and parcel number 0-108-043A.
- William C. Powell: Requests a rezone from R-2 (Residential) to C-1 for property located at 819 Mission Ridge Road, Rossville, GA, 30741. Tax map and parcel number 0-124-046.
- Bajrangi Properties.: Requests a rezone from R-2 to C-1 for property located at 1250 Mission Ridge Road, Rossville, GA, 30741. Tax map and parcel number 0-125-065.
- Pigeon Mountain Land Co., LLC: Requests a rezone from CN to C-1 for property located at 5606 W Hwy. 136, Chickamauga, GA, 30707. Tax map and parcel number 0-284-003A.
- Daniel Heithold: Requests a rezone from A-1 (Agriculture) to PUD (Planned Unit Development) for property located at 12160 Hwy. 193, Chickamauga, GA 30707. Tax map and parcel number 0-263-001.
- Robert Allen Benton: Requests a rezone to increase the C-1 part of the property and split-zoned C-1/R2 for property at 2025 McFarland Avenue, Rossville, GA 30741. Tax map and parcel number 0-174-130.
- Robert Allen Benton: Requests variance for a small number of required parking spaces for the property located at 2025 McFarland Avenue, Rossville, GA 30741. Tax map and parcel number 0-174-130.
Melissa Hulsey addressed commissioners first in opposition to all the requested zoning changes, explaining she lived near two of the locations and one, 5606 W Hwy. 136, she could see from her driveway. Hulsey expressed concern that the reason for multiple of the changes was to allow the sale of alcohol at those locations.
Hulsey read the question posed to voters regarding the sale of alcohol and said she felt the outcome may have been different if the commission had asked instead if zoning should be changed in residential areas to allow alcohol sales. Hulsey said residents voted based on mandates and county ordinances as the currently are, even citing specific ones that applied to the requested zoning changes. Hulsey said when they voted they had no idea the zoning would be changed and thought they were voting for nice restaurants, not fast food or Applebee’s, but nice, local restaurants. That was what constituents want.
Hulsey also referred to the county’s Joint Comprehensive Plan that was approved months before unanimously by the commissioners and said making these zoning changes for spot zoning would be breaking the trust with constituents who expected the commission to hold to that plan. Hulsey asked commissioners to “hold strong on this zoning” and to keep agriculture, agriculture and the residential, residential.
“Ya’ll made the map, we didn’t,” Hulsey said referring to the zoning map.
Hulsey pointed out that the requested zoning change documents were marked yes under suitable for use and according to CN zoning guidelines the answer should be no as liquor sales were prohibited.
Susan Everett, a resident of Mission Ridge Road in Rossville told commissioners that she did not feel alcohol sales should be added in an area that already has issues with drugs. Everett spoke about the legacy the county wanted to leave for the children and said not only would the liquor stores diminish the value of the neighborhood, but she felt it would be selling their kids’ souls and other’s souls.
“I feel like we are opening a box that we are…it’s going to cost us more money, more lives, more families, you know, problems, more arrests,” Everett said. “It’s going to change the whole feel of the neighborhood.”
Edward James told commissioners they passed an ordinance and started something they could not back down from otherwise they were on a slope with ice. Approving spot zoning changes once would lead to another and another and then there is no longer a rural, agricultural community. James said the county doesn’t need to be bigger.
Jill Boston said she had researched the affects of liquor stores in communities and found that mean rates of violent crimes became “highly elevated”. Boston said they do not want the liquor stores in their rural communities and neighborhoods. Boston said she voted for Commissioner Stultz because he was a fellow farmer. Boston asked about a moratorium being passed for District 4 to prevent zoning changes.
Two Patels who have requested two of the zoning changes spoke in support of the change. The first Patel to speak said his location had been a Quick Stop since 2006 and already sold alcohol. He said nothing was changing, except the zoning and if he had known this was coming he would have requested the zoning change before.
The second Patel to speak said they are already allowed by Walker County to sell alcohol and his location has already been selling alcohol as well. He said it needed to change anyway with a golf course and hotels being built it would be more busy anyway.
Michael Johnson spoke in support of the requested change at 1981/1979 N Hwy. 341 in Rossville. Johnson said they have proposed a plan for this property and there is an issue with parking. Johnson said they wanted to bring more money from Tennessee to Georgia. They wanted to cut the structure in half with a dividing wall and while the location currently has 9 parking spots, it will have 18 with proposed plan. He also said it shares an easement with neighbors, but that easement will just become the driveway instead of an easement. Johnson said he felt their business would bring more money, more jobs, and less dui’s, citing Ironman as an event in the area that could bring them business.
Jamey Hulsey, husband to Melissa Hulsey, asked commissioners what value the rural liquor stores were bringing to Walker County. Hulsey said they were not really bringing more jobs, but more mischief and crime.
Scott White spoke against the zoning change at 1819 Mission Ridge Road in Rossville and said commissioners did not want a liquor store in the agricultural areas. He requested commissioners ask themselves if they would want one of these in their neighborhood behind them or right down the hill. He asked commissioners to listen to the people.
“It was a scam from the beginning,” White said. “ We thought we were getting nice restaurants to serve alcohol. We went on ya’ll’s word and now you want to change.”
Sandra Wilbanks spoke in support of the same zoning change on behalf of William Powell who had requested it. Wilbanks said Powell was under the impression that he has always been C-1. He was unaware his property had been grandfathered in and that he just wanted the change in case he wanted to sell the property in the future. That was the only reason he wanted the change, because legally and bank-wise he would need it.
Edward Yates spoke in opposition of the zoning changes and said the situation reflected on the integrity of the commissioners as politicians.
During voting on action items, Chairman Shannon Whitfield called Planning Director Jon Pursley to give the Planning and Zoning Commission recommendations on the zoning requests.
For the zoning change request for the property at 9180 W Hwy. 136 in Chickamauga, the Planning Commission recommended denying based on current zoning around it. The property is surrounded by CN, R-2 and split zoning as well as one agriculture, but mostly CN.
Commissioner Stultz motioned that the commission table the vote to give them time to digest the situations regarding the property, plus Commissioner Askew was not present at the meeting. The motion was approved unanimously.
For the zoning change request for the property at 1981/1979 N Hwy. 341 in Rossville, GA the Planning Commission denied due to surrounding zoning and parking issues. The shared driveway would be a hazard as well since it was the primary entrance. County Commissioners denied the zoning change request unanimously.
For the request in zoning change for the property at 819 Mission Ridge Road in Rossville, GA Pursley explained the building was an Old Ace Hardware and already had a liquor store approved within 1500 feet. How the building sits now a liquor store cannot be opened there. It also does not meet parking regulations. But the property itself should have been rezoned previously. The zoning change was approved unanimously by County Commissioners based on the Planning Commission approval.
The zoning change request for the property at 1250 Mission Ridge Road in Rossville, GA was denied by the Planning Commission based on the surrounding zoning and not meeting the parking requirements. The property does touch one C-1 property the Planning Commission has discovered but still does not meet the parking requirements. County Commissioners unanimously denied the zoning change based on parking issues.
For the zoning change request for the property at 5606 W Hwy. 136 in Chickamauga, GA, Pursley said the Planning Commission denied the change based on zoning of surrounding area and being unable to meet parking regulations as well as an unsafe approach. County Commissioners voted to deny the change unanimously.
Sandy Steele asked to appeal to Commissioners for the denial of her liquor store license application – Sanlee Inc. doing business as Sips and Shots at 4464 N Hwy 27 in Lafayette. Steele said they are residents of Walker County and last year paid over $100,000 in state and local sales tax, $8,000 in property tax, and $225,000 in payroll taxes. The majority of their employees live in Walker County. She spoke about the reason for denial – that there was another liquor license approved for a business within 1500 feet of their planned construction’s front door. Steele said they have 6.38 acres to build on and can move the proposed building to the north corner of the lot if need be. Their measurements for the plan to the door of the approved business is 1531 feet as is. They plan to have a very well lit 3000 sq. ft. business that gives women a place they feel comfortable to come have a drink. She asked Commissioners to reconsider her application. Pursley and Commissioners explained she works need to go back to the board to appeal to them. Steele said she was told to go to the commission and also that she didn’t need to be at the meeting where her license was denied. Pursley said that if she could get a survey done or exact rendering of the lot and proposed construction and bring it to the board that would help. He said he felt there was some confusion. Pursley also suggested they could stake out the building and get a survey done and present those to the board. County Commissioners unanimously agreed to table the appeal to give Steele the chance to get more information and meet with the Board regarding her liquor license.
Several concerns were expressed by county residents over the Cloudland Station property use at 12160 Hwy. 193. Tatum, owner of the property, said he was willing to answer any questions concerning the development of the property. Tatum responded to commissioners’ questions saying the average home will have a ¼ acre lot if approved. Currently 88 lots have been approved with 30 homes being built. The gated community has 61 total acres and could potentially have 250 homes.
Clarence Miles said he shares a driveway with the Cloudland Station property and has concerns for the residents of 193 regarding increased traffic on a road that Miles said is already dangerous. Miles has been a Walker County resident for 48 years and also has race cars that are loud. Miles is concerned about potential noise complaints from residents of the proposed community.
Dewayne Wilson also expressed concerns about the potential for noise complaints due to his farm animals. Wilson said he moved out of a subdivision in order to have farmland. Wilson, like others, has concerns about the safety of people traveling 193 with the increased traffic the gated community would bring.
Edward Yates expressed concerns of the burden on local residents due to taxes, water and sewer, schools, and heavy traffic.
Melissa Hulsey, who lives on Hwy 136 and Hwy 193 pointed out parts of the 2022 – 2032 Joint Comprehensive Plan for Walker County including limit new development, restrict commercial and residential development, promote area for passive and residential use, protect farmland and open spaces, promote use of conservation easements landowners, and preserve agricultural land for future farm use. Hulsey also pointed out Tatum had already been denied by the Planning and Zoning Committee and said she likes living in an agricultural area.
Joan Womack who lives across the street from Cloudland Station said the attraction of the area is that it is rural and she feels Tatum is bringing the city to the county. This type of development is overdevelopment according to Womack and asked why they couldn’t build houses on 5 acre lots.
James Henry told commissioners he felt this was putting the cart before the horse and that a development like this should have more studies done by the county before it is approved.
Tara Taymore, a Hamilton County resident who is currently building a home on family land in Walker County said Walker residents wanted to preserve, protect, and conserve their homes and families.
A final rezoning request was made by Bobby Howard a resident of Cartersville who would like a zoning change for 2025 McFarland Avenue in order to build a 12,000 square foot Dollar General that would serve the Fairview Community. Howard excess property would be donated to the neighbor behind the property.
For the zoning change request at 12160 Hwy. 193, Chickamauga, GA. Pursley said the Planning Commission denied the request because they believed the road conditions would be too hazardous, property over 199 residents would need two entrances and there is currently only one, and there is too much unknown about the project. County Commissioners voted unanimously to deny the zoning change request.
For the zoning change request at 2025 McFarland Avenue, Rossville, GA. County Commissioners unanimously approved the request.
For the parking variance request for 2025 McFarland Avenue, Rossville, GA. The variance was approved unanimously by County Commissioners contingent on there being a vegetation buffer.
County Commissioners approved a lowest bid of $30,000 with a local wood chipping company they have used the past 5 years to turn 1600 tons of brush and trees into mulch which is sold to county residents and a business who uses the wood chips for power. Also approved was the purchase of 39 AED units for the Sheriff’s Office from Avive at the cost of $57,262.21 to be paid from ARPA funds; Resolution R-045-23 to file for a grant with the Georgia Department of Transportation for public transportation assistance; Resolution R-046-023 to apply for a Recreational Trail grant of up to $750,000 that could be used for the ADA playground project; Resolution R-047-023 to appoint Todd Holt to a vacant seat on the Walker County Planning Commission to complete the current term and for a three year term beginning January 1, 2024 and Randy Pittman to finish the term for a vacated seat and a three year term to start January 1, 2024; Resolution R-039-23 to appoint a Deputy Clerk, Jessica Staton, while the current Deputy Clerk is on family leave; and a Quit Claim Deed for Walker County property that is a flat lot of land in the city of Lafayette across from the Commissioners office to the city of Lafayette and to be returned to the county if the city no longer wants the land.
The FY (Fiscal Year) 2024 Budget for Walker County was approved as was the FY 2024 Enterprise Fund and Special Revenue Budget, amendment of the Walker County Commissioners meeting schedule, the Walker County Calendar for county offices, R-044-23 to participate in the GDOT bridge program, and the amendment of Ordinance 0-05-23, Chapter 13.
By Summer Kelley
Watch the full meeting here: