Zoning changes impact digital billboards, private driveways

Bartow Planning Commission recommends slate of ordinance amendments

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The Bartow County Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend a sweeping series of zoning ordinance amendments at a public meeting Monday evening.

That includes new provisions regarding the installation of LED digital billboards throughout the county.

“We’ve had some discussion over the last several months about billboards and how to allow them,” said Bartow County Zoning Administrator Brandon Johnson. “I think the commissioner was open to allowing them on a limited basis. Myself and the county administrator came up with a proposal that would allow billboards as a conditional use to be approved by the commissioner on a case-by-case basis.”

Under the proposed ordinance amendments, no digital billboard would be allowed within 2,000 feet of another digital billboard, nor would they be allowed “linearly along the same road” or within 1,000 feet of any existing billboards.

Furthermore, the billboards would only be allowed as conditional uses in the BPD, C-1, I-1 and I-2 zoning districts and could only be constructed if adjacent to state or federal highway right of way.

The application fee for a digital billboard permit is set at $2,500. “Those will not come to the planning commission for consideration,” Johnson added.

The conditional use permits would be valid for one year. Once the billboards are constructed, the permit will remain valid for 20 years from the date of the commissioner’s approval.

Per the amended ordinance language, Johnson stated the “commissioner shall consider the character of the area, whether light emitting from [the] board will be a nuisance to drivers, whether [the] sign is new or replacing an existing sign [and] the number of billboard faces the applicant is willing to remove for each sign face requested” as factors in denying or accepting a conditional use permit request.

Johnson said the county would begin accepting applications in March. Moving forward, he said the county will limit the number of applications taken each month.

“The billboard sections will come into effect in 30 days, so they’re not effective immediately,” he said. “We didn’t want to create a situation where there’s 20 people here Wednesday after the commissioner signs this thing.”

Another recommended ordinance amendment would establish new standards for residential communities with private driveways. Under the proposal, private easements would have to be a minimum of 30 feet in width and “surfaced to a minimum of six inches of depth of crusher run stone” while any private bridges or culverts along the easements would have to be certified by an engineer to meet county fire department-specified weight limits. 

Neighborhoods that fail to meet the new safety standards, the ordinance language states, may be refused services by fire department personnel.

The recommended zoning ordinance amendments also impact trash transfer stations and mobile homes. Per the changes, such stations will now only be allowed in industrial-zoned districts, “provided that operations are in an enclosed facility and not within 1,000 feet of a residentially-zoned or residentially-used property,” while manufactured homes will no longer be allowed for use as storage buildings. 

“We’re also recommending a family exemption on agricultural lots,” Johnson said, “so you can give a family member an acre without having to come through the zoning process.”

Bartow County Commissioner Steve Taylor is set to approve the zoning ordinance amendments at a public meeting scheduled today at 10 a.m. The hearing takes place at the Frank Moore Administration and Judicial Center, at 135 West Cherokee Ave. in Cartersville.