New Zoning Rules in Columbia County

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October 19, 2005
Columbia County’s new zoning laws are stirring up controversy among some local business owners. Tuesday night commissioners voted unanimously on new zoning laws for Furys Ferry Road and parts of Washington Road. News 12 is on your side with how the new rules will affect business.

Eighteen different requirements face new business owners. K-Bee Jewelers manager Katie Epstein is worried this could drive customers away.

“We as business owners like to expand our industry and have a little more freedom as far as marketing to customers is concerned,” Epstein said.

All new businesses must comply with the new requirements. Buildings must be stucco, brick or have wood siding. And a thirty-inch hedge must be planted between parking lots and the road. Business owner Mike Small agrees that properties facing the road should be uniform.

“I think it will be a good thing for the area, for the businesses, if they have these regulations. It’s gonna look better for the area,” Small said.

The regulations say that overhead loading doors are no longer allowed in the front of buildings. Also prohibited is metal paneling on commercial buildings.

New rules will only affect existing businesses if seventy five percent of the structure is destroyed by a natural disaster, if the building has been empty for more than a year, or if a new owner takes over. Robin Bechtel with Planning and Development says this trend is likely to continue.

“These are the roads that are the gateways into the county. For people who live here and visiting, it is their first impression of Columbia County,” Bechtel said.

“Some construction is necessary for our town to be a beautiful town the way it is,” Epstein said.

The first reading for including Columbia Road was last night, and will go up for a second reading on November first. South Washington Road between Bobby Jones and the Augusta border is another possible area.

Columbia County Architectural Standards

1. Building facades must be of brick, stucco, structural masonry, split face block, wood siding, or wood shingles.

2. Multi-family and town homes may use vinyl siding on no more than fifty percent of the facade.

3. Industrial buildings may use vinyl siding on the sides and rear of the building.

4. No flat roofs are permitted in the T-R or A-R districts. Sloped roofs must be symmetrical or directly on grade.

5. Gutters must coordinate with the facade. They may discharge into a drainage system or directly on grade.

6. Doors must be solid, glass, or louvered. You may tint the glass door, but you must be able to see through it. No exposed metal door frames are permitted (they come pre-treated from the manufacturer anyway).

7. Pedestrian doors may not be bigger than six feet wide by ten feet high. Traditional doors are three by seven, ADA doors are four by seven, and some new doors are four by eight.

8. Solid doors shall be paneled or louvered. This is to give the door a traditional look. Flat doors look institutional and industrial.

9. Overhead doors and loading areas are not permitted to face the street.

10. Fences must match the main structure. They may only be made of wrought iron, vinyl, or painted aluminum (remember, this does not pertain to residential properties).

11. Industrial buildings may have a green or black chain link fence if a hedge is planted in front of it.

12. Walls must be at least eighty five percent solid. This eliminates the "lattic work" brick walls.

13. Additional structures must match the main structure.

14. Air conditioning equipment, meters, fuel tanks, and garbage cans must be screened from view with materials matching the main structure.

15. Loading areas must be screened from view from single-family residential. This means they must be behind a wall or vegetation that blocks them from view.

16. Outdoor display is limited to twenty percent of the entire property.
-No metal buildings may be displayed in view of the road.
-The percentage of property dedicated to outdoor display can be unlimited if only ten percent is visible from the road. The remaining ninety percent must be concealed from view by a fence or building.
Metal buildings may be displayed in this concealed ninety percent.

17. A thirty inch high hedge must be planted between any parking lot and road frontage. This hedge may be in the same ten foot wide landscaping strip already required for parking lots.

18. A minimum of seventy five caliper inches of trees (diameter measured at four feet from the ground) are required per acre on commercial and professional developments. This encourages property owners to keep as many existing trees as possible. If the property has no trees on site, they would be required to plant new trees.

-Courtesy Columbia County Planning and Development