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Milton Won't Let Developers, Property Owners Rezone

The 30-day emergency moratorium may expand to several months to help the city preserve its pastoral feel.

Milton has imposed a rezoning moratorium because the sheer volume of developer applications is swamping Milton’s Community Development Department, which makes many residents fear the city could lose its pastoral nature.

Council members voted Monday night to stop accepting applications for 30 days on rezonings in the following classifications:

  • Community Unit Plan (CUP),
  • Neighborhood Unit Plan (NUP),
  • Transitional Zone (TR),
  • Single-family dwelling (R-2 and R-2A)

"The important thing to realize in all this is that we, as a city council, remain committed to protecting our city from unchecked development," said Mayor Joe Lockwood. "Instead, we're actively taking steps to build a proper balance of property rights and community desires."

Community Development Directory Kathy Field said the city's AG-1 zoning classification allows one home per acre. Developers can build at that density on any property zoned AG-1.

"There are stringent setback requirements in the AG-1 classification," she said.

Sometimes a 1-acre lot might have topographical or stream problems that mean a home can't be built on the lot under those requirements. AG-1 allows for a variance of up to 10 percent of the house lots. So in a 50-acre property, up to 5 of those lots could be granted a variance.

If a property has more than 10 percent of its lots with problems, developers have nowhere to go except the CUP classification, which allows up to 100 percent of the setbacks to be given variances.

"There is a concern in the community that's allowing too much flexibility on the setback requirements," Field said. The community feels developers and owners of land should have to follow the original setback requirements of AG-1.

"We've been inundated with a lot of CUPs, asking for changes to setbacks," she said.

Field said the perception with the CUPs and other rezonings Milton is ending up with increased density. Developers say they are building the same number of lots at the same density, she said, adding that they are just better lots.

The council in granting the moratorium is letting the Community Development Department to take a step back and look at rezoning ordinances to "see if the zoning is really answering the needs of the community in terms of all the development that is going on."

Field said the time will be spend making sure the rights of landowners in terms of their development rights are protected as well.

Only a 30-day moratorium is allowed as an emergency. But the city will spend the next 30 days advertising for a longer moratorium that could last several months.

"I think this is being driven by the consideration that there's an awful lot of development going on in all of those subdivisions that have been previously left vacated because of the economic downturn. Those lots are being built up and new subdivision are coming in as well," she said.

"The community is concerned about losing viewsheds, losing the pastoral look of the city of Milton. I think the council has heard that, and this is part of that response," Field said.

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