The Bartow County Planning Commission voted unanimously to deny a conditional use permit for a 50-acre property off Bill Nelson Road at Monday evening’s public meeting.
Applicants Juan and Veronica Torres, who were not present at the commission hearing, seek to open an event facility “to host gatherings, primarily for weddings” at the A-1 agriculture-zoned site in Taylorsville.
Martin Garcia, a spokesman for the Torres, told the commission that he did not know what the proposed hours of operation for the event facility would be — nor did he know whether or not the applicants intended for the event space to be a commercial operation.
Project surveyor Blake Armstrong said the conceptual plan for the site could feasibly host more than 100 people, although he wasn’t sure what the total capacity of the proposed event space might actually be.
The parking lot, he said, would have at least 40 spaces, with additional parking room along the sides of the building.
“That’s as far as we’ve gone with it,” Armstrong said. “We didn’t want to go too far, because we wanted to hear from the commission, we wanted to hear from the neighbors and work with everybody — we understand that people want their privacy and this is out on farmland, and we want to respect that and do what we can to keep everybody happy.”
Continuing, Armstrong said the facility would have a paved or concrete outdoor area where individuals could gather outside the building. He estimated the total land disturbance area of the development to be no greater than 2-3 acres.
Almost a dozen people took to the podium to speak out against the conditional use application.
“The road itself is already filled with potholes and its overall structural integrity has been compromised over the years,” said Taylorsville resident Michael Schwartz. “Bill Nelson Road cannot handle the added vehicle traffic that presently would be coming in.”
His biggest concern over the proposed event space, however, is noise.
“I bought that property specifically so I wouldn’t have to listen to some noise,” he said. “We like our peaceful, easy feeling out there, and we’d like to keep it.”
Planning commission board member Richard Fox said he wholeheartedly agreed.
"Those folks have been living out there for years, they’ve been paying taxes for years, it’s going to totally disrupt their lives,” he said. “I’m sorry, but regardless of what you come back with, I just do not feel like this is an appropriate location.”
Ultimately, commission board member Greg Bowen suggested Armstrong withdraw the application — a move that would allow the applicants to reapply for the conditional use permit in six months rather than an entire year in the case of a denial.
The only problem is that, under the County’s policies, only the applicants themselves can officially withdraw their requests from official review.
“We used to require a written authorization if you’re going to take a formal action on behalf of the applicant,” said Bartow County Administrator Peter Olson. “I think we create a sticky situation then, because he might call you tomorrow and say ‘I didn’t authorize the withdrawal of the application.’”
At that point, Bartow County Zoning Administrator Brandon Johnson weighed in.
“If it’s withdrawn at the hearing before a vote, I don’t believe there is a time limitation,” he said. “The ordinance says a withdrawal after the planning commission’s hearing requires a re-submittal [wait] of at least six months … but there’s no one here to authorize that.”
That meant the board was obligated to cast a vote on the item — which, in turn, produced an across-the-board recommendation to reject the permit application.
Still, the commission’s vote is just a recommendation with no legal binding. Rather, Bartow County Commissioner Steve Taylor has the sole discretion to approve or deny the applicants’ request at a public hearing scheduled for this morning. That hearing will take place at the Frank Moore Administration and Judicial Center, at 135 West Cherokee Ave. in Cartersville, at 10 a.m.