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Council Approves Form-Based Code

Ridgewalk area landowner Bill Butler opposes new code.

The Woodstock City Council on Monday narrowly approved incorporating a new form of zoning into its code of ordinances.

The council voted 4-3 to amend its land development ordinance to include a section on form-based code. Mayor Donnie Henriques was the tie-breaking vote in favor of the change while council members Bud Leonard, Chris Casdia and Liz Baxter voted against the measure. The city also amended its official zoning map to change the Ridgewalk area's zoning from technology park overlay to incorporate form-based code. 

Form-based code veers from traditional zoning in that it addresses the relationship between development and public spaces as opposed to relying on separating uses based upon categories.

The city decided to go towards form based codes after it became apparent the Ridgewalk area would not develop into a technology office park hub. The city last year held numerous public input meetings with residents and stakeholders to get feedback on how they’d like to see the Ridgewalk area develop.

Ridgewalk Holdings, LLC, which owns the bulk of the property subjected to the change, has come out against the change and hired former Gov. Roy Barnes to represent them in appealing to the city.

Ridgewalk Holdings Bill Butler on Tuesday said the company is not commenting on the council's decision.

Barnes on Monday argued the change was “unconstitutional” and asked the city if it could exclude roughly 45 acres from the change. About 32.5 acres is being eyed by Canton-based Watermarke Church to possibly build a facility in the area and 12 acres is under consideration by the outlet mall.

That proposal garnered positive feedback from both Baxter and Leonard, but the council at large did not incorporate the idea into its motion.

The former governor said the property owner had marketed and “created contracts” on the previous zoning and said the change would implement “two levels of zoning.”

Council members were divided on the proposal.

Casdia, who noted he always came down on the side of property rights, said he felt the decision was unfair.

“This is a rezoning of property that’s already been zoned,” he said, later adding the change is against the will of the property owners.

Council member Randy Brewer, whose Ward 1 encompasses the Ridgewalk area, disagreed, noting this was “one of those rare” moments in which the city is following the recommendations of the public. 

In other business, the council reviewed proposed redistricting maps for its six wards. City staff will bring back a map to be considered during the council’s Oct. 8 meeting. Baxter also requested the city tentatively schedule a public hearing for Oct. 15 on the proposed changes. 

The council also: 

  • approved a sign variance request from His Hands Church to continue using an existing 8 ft x 50 ft banner, or 400 square feet, sign until July 2013.    
  • approved a contract with Diversified Electronics, Inc. to maintain the Woodstock Police Department's radio system for $927.50 per month.
  • approved amending the lease with Elm Street Cultural Arts to include the Granger property to the lease;
  • approved moving forward with a plan to implement a self-insurance fund for employees health insurance; 
  • met in executive session to discuss personnel, litigation and real estate, but took no action upon returning. 

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