St Marys citizens have taken to social media encouraging others to sign a petition to stop the adoption of the newly proposed ordinances. The new ordinances apply to the entire City of St. Marys, not just downtown.
The proposed ordinances are aligned with the city’s 10-year master plan to accommodate new growth, according to Planning Commission Chair Mike Rich and other city planning staff.
In November of 2017, the zoning ordinances came under fire by the public where many citizens voiced opposition to the St. Marys Planning Commission to what some called at the meeting “homeowners’ association” (HOA) style zoning ordinances. Planning Commission members heard those comments and voted down the ordinances from moving forward.
The City Council then tasked the Planning Commission to review the ordinances once again to bring forward recommendations with changes from the public. Since that time, over 20 changes have been made, some Planning Commission members resigned (or not did not get reappointed), Planning Commission members replaced, and public hearings have been conducted.
According to the Planning Commission website, all public hearings are complete and there are no additional public hearings scheduled at this time. The city is accepting written comments until June 8th. The next meeting will be a special called meeting on June 14th to make recommendations for the City Council to either accept, revise, or table the ordinances.
The last public hearing was on Sat. May 26th in which Planning Commission Chair said the following at the start of the hearing to the public (view May 26th video):
“The Commission, by law, has to review 10 requirements and one of those is public comment, said Chairman Mike Rich. ” Public comment isn’t determinant of whether the Planning Commission, at the end of the day, will adopt, revise, or deny the application in the change of the zoning code.” Rich went on to say that the city’s new master plan requires a need to revise and adopt a new zoning code.
Many citizens have continued to voice concerns that Citizen Boards and the City Council have long been filled with residents use to living under covenants and restrictions seen in gated communities and subdivisions with HOAs. Former Planning Commission members have also said the same in public meetings.
AllOnGeorgia-Camden reached out to the City Council and Mayor John Morrissey via email about the petition and ordinances. The Council and Mayor stated that they are not willing to publically comment on the proposed ordinances until they receive a final draft from the Planning Commission. Once the Planning Commission sends a final version of the ordinances to the Council, the Council and Mayor are expected to review, consider public input, and make a determination.
AllOnGeorgia-Camden reached out to the original organizer of the petition, but they wanted to remain anonymous. For the purposes of the article, they will be referred to has KH.
“This is not what they love about St. Marys. This is trying to push the Osprey Cove [a gated community] rules down on everybody. This is really upsetting. I felt like having a public meeting on a Saturday of a holiday (Memorial Day weekend) is not really a public meeting,” said KH. “I did not know it was even happening. I saw all the cars outside City Hall on a Saturday. I do feel like they are trying to push some stuff through. This section of the petition is going to affect so many people and it is not just in the Historic District, it is all over the city.”
The two public hearings on May 24th and May 26th were posted on the city’s website prior to the meeting dates and times.
In previous public hearings, many residents have also brought up the increased population densities turning 10,000 square foot lots into 5,000 square foot lots to accommodate more people. The idea is to increase population density to increase the tax base and provide for more water/sewer tap-in fees. Many residents have suggested that the priorities must focus on stormwater drainage since Hurricane Irma stressed the city’s infrastructure. The Planning Commission wants to strike the right balance between accommodating for future growth and manage the infrastructure plans associated with the city’s 10-year master plan.
Below is a copy of the petition referencing the section on Outdoor Storage on Residential Properties –Petition
Many comments, such as Melanie Britt’s, are circulating on social media telling other citizens to sign the petition:
KH is asking St Marys citizens to obtain a copy of the petition, sign it, and take it to James Jewelers off Spur 40 before the next special called meeting, which is June 14th.
June 8th is the last day written comments can be sent to the Community Development Department. The email to send public comments is email@example.com
AllOnGeorgia – Camden started an online non-scientific poll pinned to the top post on our Facebook Page.
Relevant dates and websites/links concerning the new ordinances –
- Community Development website with documents and other information
- Newly proposed ordinances as of May 24th, 2018
- Public hearing videos from May 24th and May 26th – click on videos for those dates
- Written public comments as of May 29th, 2018
- June 8th is the closing of final public written comments- Email to send comments is firstname.lastname@example.org
- June 14th is a special meeting where the Planning Commission will decide to send or reject the new ordinances. The meeting will take place on at 6 p.m. in the City Council Chambers.
- St. Marys’ 10-Year Master Plan
Related articles on the St. Marys ordinances –