Starr’s Mill historic district turned down for now

Thursday night’s Fayette County Board of Commissioners meeting started with an eye on preserving history and finished with an focus on protecting the future.
For now, the proposed Starr’s Mill Historic Overlay District and Overlay Zone are dead, but this likely won’t be the last the county hears from it. Last presented at the May 26 meeting, the changes to the county’s code of ordinances are aimed at protecting the aesthetics and feel of historic Starr’s Mill and the surrounding area of state roads 74 and 85 and Padgett Road. If approved, it would have limited what types of commercial properties could be built in the area and what they could look like, in order to maintain consistency with what is considered the gateway to the county on its southern side.
“What we want to do is maintain the aesthetics, the historic aspect of Starr’s Mill, which is one of the main focal points for Fayette County, and also maintain traffic flow,” said Pete Frezina, Director of the Planning and Zoning Department.
Commissioner Steve Brown maintained his stance that he supported the overall idea, but was adamant against voting in favor if it left the door open for a gas station so close to what he called an “icon” of the county.
“I have no problem with commercial operations there. The renderings you’ve shown us I think are very appropriate. I would love to see that,” said Brown, adding that he would “wholeheartedly support” the motion if gas stations were left out the options. “You only get one shot to protect historic properties in most cases. Once it gets developed and zoned, that’s it. We’re leaving this to perpetuity, and I’d rather have it as airtight as I can possibly make it.”
The commission denied the ordinance changes 1-3-1, Oddo supporting, Rousseau abstaining, and Brown, Barlow, and Ognio against.
Frezina noted that the zoning change would not impact whether or not a gas station could be built in the area. Amending the land use plan would affect that. In order to still get the desired zoning change, the process will have to start over with legal advertisements leading up to a return to the planning commission before the commissioners can see it again.
While the Starr’s Mill talk had a touch of historic flavor, one zoning and one annexation request brought talk of protecting the county’s future direction. The zoning request concerned 100.967 acres that front Dogwood Trail, with sights set on developing a single-family residential subdivision with 68 lots.
The annexation request came for 29.63 acres east of the Price Road Estates subdivision near Ingles as part of a rezoning from single-family residential to residential townhouse condominium. The plans, which would have Fayetteville annexing the property from the county, initially called for 54 lots, but were dropped to 39, still higher than density than the county allows.
Both requests were denied unanimously, the annexation drawing out a large crowd.
“I would say the reason most of us moved here is the quality of life, and the surest way to kill quality of life is to start cramming higher-density developments down every street and every alley,” said Commissioner Steve Brown. “Keep it the high-end community that we’ve always appreciated, keep it low-density, keep the crowding out of the schools, and keep the traffic off the roads. That is our recipe for success in Fayette County if we force it to be that way.”
The annexation brought out vocal opposition, including Fayetteville Mayor Ed Johnson, whose city would also be annexing the property.
“As you all know, the City of Fayetteville has been inundated with requests by developers for high-density, multi-family dwellings. We are researching with our attorneys how best to abate this onslaught of requests,” said Johnson. “This is just another example where the city is not ready to handle a request such as this, so I respectfully request that the commission deny the request for annexation.”
He echoed the sentiments of Brown and others, saying, “Everybody recognizes that, with the improvement of the economy, now is the time to develop, but this is not the type of development that we want, especially in this portion of the city. The City of Fayetteville does not want this annexation. It becomes a real nightmare for us to manage it.”
The commission was quick to thank the public for their voice and support and for staying involved in their community.
“Let your voice be heard. We don’t want to be like other areas, we want to be like Fayette County,” said Commissioner Randy Ognio. “Developers make their money and leave, and we’re stuck here with the traffic issues. We’ve got to be careful. It’s very important that our citizens stand up and support us to deny these kinds of things. I congratulate each and every one of y’all who came out tonight and spoke.”
The annexation request denial was made with applause from the audience.
“I think involvement from the citizens is going to help us keep our county what it is,” said Ognio.

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Christopher Dunn has been the sports editor for Fayette Newspapers since 2011, in addition to running Fayette Game Day magazine. He is a graduate of Fayette County schools, as well as a graduate of Georgia State University with a degree in journalism. Follow him on twitter @fayettesports.


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