Wall, fence regs rejected, sent back to planners

The Lincoln County Commission last week rejected a proposed amendment to its zoning resolution that would have placed restrictions on new fences and walls in residential districts, and then, in a separate vote, asked planners to draft another amendment that would only address the setback of such.

And in another vote, they approved the establishment of a new high-density zoning district, R-3, where single family homes, as well as manufactured homes, could be located on more dense lots served by public water and sewer. That, though, came as officials discussed the challenges of infrastructure needs, particularly in areas of the county sure to see growth as thousands of new jobs come to the region.

The proposed amendment on walls and fences failed in a 14 to 7 vote, with three commissioners absent, during Tuesday’s meeting of the County Commission. However, commissioners did refer the matter back to county planners, asking that they come back with an amendment only requiring a minimum setback of 12 feet from the edge of the roadway. The amendment would only pertain to new fences, as existing fences would be grandfathered in or allowed to remain.

As commissioners prepared to vote on the new R-3 high-density zoning district, Nancy Harris, director of planning and zoning for the county, briefed them on the pros and cons of such developments, typically preferred by young professionals or retirees who do not wish to take care of a yard.

A Madison County, Ala., official has said that there are approximately 7,500 relocated FBI personnel moving into the area – “Madison County hopes to have about 3,500 new homes built, leaving a need for an additional 4,000,” she said. “The FBI has leased approximately 1,600 acres in Huntsville to build a new headquarters of six new buildings, three of which are already under construction. They will become a major presence in our community.

“Toyota-Mazda is another one that’s building a 3.1 million new manufacturing plant in Huntsville, targeted to open in early 2021 with 4,000 employees to start,” she continued, adding that the Chamber of Commerce there projects thousands of more jobs being created as a result.

“We do have a draft design pending approval of the R-3 district that proposes approximately 150 homes on the low end,” she said, noting that based on the average of $150,000 per home, the development would generate approximately $135,000 in additional property tax revenue for the county. “A more dense development brings an increase in labor force, building materials, vehicle purchases, local shopping and vehicle tags, just to name a few. Those were the pros.”

Regarding cons, Harris said the county has an infrastructure problem, and to assist with that, the county could implement a development fee for each new dwelling. Subsequent revenue could be put toward improvements in infrastructure as well as fire and police protection.

Another con would be the possibility of school overcrowding, she said, noting again that typically high-density areas are not geared toward families.

“My last point is, these people are going to move to Lincoln County whether we do this or not,” she said. “We have to be prepared – it’s coming folks, so let’s do our homework, and let’s do it right.”

Commissioner Ricky Bryant said that while he doesn’t disagree the need for such developments is becoming more prevalent, officials should realize schools in the area are almost at capacity now, if not at capacity, and that a new school will be needed.

“The point I want to make is that, and I’m not against this, I’m going to vote for it, but we’re going to have to build a $20 million school at some point,” he said, adding that he also sits on the fire committee and high-density developments are sure to create issues there.

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