At most planning commission meetings, agenda items are either recommended for approval or denial before proceeding to the next step in the bureaucratic process.
But at Tuesday evening’s Cartersville Planning Commission meeting, the board refused to make recommendations — either for or against — not one but two orders of business.
The first involved a special use permit request from Acworth-based Four Points Church to open a “religious institution” at 920 North Tennessee St., which is currently zoned for multiple-use in the City’s commercial zoning category.
“There’s a multi-tenant building on the site and the church is looking to move into it,” said City of Cartersville Director of Planning and Development Randy Mannino. “There are additional standards that go with special-use permits for churches, and the applicant has gone through those particular standards and made comments in their application.”
Mannino said he’s heard some concerns from a commercial property owner, who has worries about the permit impacting future businesses’ ability to sell alcohol in the vicinity due to provisions barring the sale of such beverages within a specified distance from churches.
“We basically follow the State requirement on that,” he said. “That is a 300-foot or 100-yard requirement from the front door of the establishment that sells packaged beer or wine.”
But as Mannino explained, the City’s guidelines for determining such isn’t as simplistic as it may seem.
“We measure it on the route on the ground that is traveled, basically, from the front door to the driveway sidewalk,” he said. “And from the sidewalk to the crosswalk — if there’s a crosswalk across the street — or the nearest cross street, and back down to the sidewalk to the property front door. So depending on how the site across the street is laid out, I can’t tell you if it definitely would meet the requirement without looking at the actual layout and drawing.”
Or, as Cartersville Planning Commission Chair Lamar Pinson put it, “it’s not as the crow flies.”
Four Points Church representative Scott Machan briefly took to the podium at the meeting. He said the church was only eying a short-term lease at the Tennessee Street property — about 2-4 years.
Beth Tilley, of Tilley Properties and Holdings, spoke in opposition to the special use permit request.
“The thing that the ordinance does is that it’s up to somebody’s interpretation,” she said. “We’ve spent a lot of money over there and I hate to get to this point … we’re not against churches, but this would restrict us and take away property rights from us that we have and that we’ve counted on for a long time.”
Planning commission board member Steven Smith made a motion to deny recommendation of the special use permit. However, without any other members of the commission seconding it, the proposal “died” on the third floor of Cartersville City Hall.
That means the special use permit proposal will head to a first reading before the Cartersville City Council on May 16 without any formal recommendation from the planning commission — which also proved to be the fate of a rezoning request from Avanti Properties Group.
The Winter Park, Florida-headquartered company is seeking the rezoning of approximately 212 acres near Belmont Drive from R-20 residential to R-10 residential.
“Though it’s under the umbrella of Carter Grove, it wasn’t part of the original planned development and zoning conditions and development agreement,” Mannino said. “There are several large tracts in the area — currently in the City, currently zoned residential — and [lead developer Steve] Simpson actually bought it after the fact.”
Avanti purchased almost 2,500 acres near and within the Carter Grove development in 2011. The massive residential development, which is adjacent to the Woodland Hills Golf Club, was originally intended to include more than 3,000 houses.
In total, Mannino said Avanti is proposing about 330 lots within the rezoned property, with 98 acres of the development reserved for green space.
“The road was actually constructed, it goes through there, but it’s never been final platted and it’s not a city road yet,” Mannino said. “They were approved for a development — I believe the original preliminary plat showed approximately 247 lots on this  from this 212 acres. They’re looking to do some adjustments to that portion of that 212 acres that would add approximately 83 more lots to it, but in turn, provide some additional open space … my understanding, they’re looking to re-establish some additional rec area on that property where it once got started.”
The current R-20 zoning, Mannino said, allows up to two units per acre.
“Their overall density in here is close to 1.3 units per acre, so they’re still below the actual R-20 density that it’s currently zoned for,” he said. “They do have a project that they are looking toward, which is a little less width in the lots. If they choose to do that, they would have to take that to the board of zoning appeals, just because of the standards that are listed in the zoning ordinance.”
During the public comment period, local resident Ralph Miller spoke out against the proposed rezoning.
“You know, I don’t think this is where the City of Cartersville wants to go, 10,000-square-foot lots,” he said. “We went through a long process on this Carter Grove development down here and met with a lot of people, made a lot of agreements, and those agreements should flow down to this developer.”
This time, members of the Cartersville Planning Commission didn’t even bother making a motion to approve or deny the rezoning request, electing to pass on the matter to the city council sans any recommendations, pro or con.
The council is expected to hear a first reading of the proposed rezoning at a meeting scheduled this Thursday at 7 p.m at 10 North Public Square in Cartersville.