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Next Step Ministries Seeks New Home

The Cherokee County Commission approved a request from the company to remove zoning restrictions on property it wants to purchase.

Credit: Patch file photo
Credit: Patch file photo
A nonprofit organization's request to remove zoning conditions on property they want to purchase got the final stamp of approval from the Cherokee County Commission.

Commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved a request from Next Step Ministries to remove conditions imposed on property at 7709 Turner Road in Woodstock.

The conditions, which were imposed during the 1980s when it was rezoned to what's now known as neighborhood commercial, stipulated the building could only be used as a music school or a drapery shop, should not exceed 40 feet by 100 feet in size and should be built similar to the style of other structures in the area.

The organization wants to remove those conditions so it could adapt the building to suit its needs. 

Cherokee County Zoning Administrator Vicki Taylor Lee said staff found all the conditions had been violated since they were imposed.

While the property was zoned for neighborhood commercial, all of the permitted uses were not appropriate for the area, which is surrounded by residential properties.

So, with the help of District 2 Commissioner Ray Gunnin, county staff was able to nail down a list that includes less than 50 uses — mostly office and other uses that Gunnin said would not create "outside disturbances" — that would be permitted on the property.

"As long as I’m on this board, there will be no more commercial (uses) that will go in this area," Gunnin said during Tuesday's meeting.

Lori Baker, founder of Next Step Ministries, said they have one more issue to tie up before they can close on the property. Once that's resolved, they hope to move into the facility by April 1, 2014. 

Along with the removal of the conditions, the county noted Baker would be restricted to no more than a 5,000-square-foot expansion and would have to plant adequate buffers to protect neighbors from noise.

Baker noted she was fine with the new stipulations.

"That should give us plenty of room," she said on Wednesday. "We would not expand building until we get the client base to support that, so we have no immediate plans to increase the size at this time."

Next Step Ministries, which sits at 3353 Trickum Road in Woodstock, is a Christian-based organization that offers day care options for families with special needs children and a Saturday respite program. The program serves on average 15 special needs individuals during the week and 25 on Saturdays.

Residents who live in the area were concerned that if the conditions were removed, it could open up the possibility of heavier uses being permitted in the area. 

Baker said she looks forward to answering questions to residents who still may have concerns about her future plans, and added she "certainly" invites them to visit her current facility to learn more about her operations.

"We certainly hope to be good neighbors over there," she added.

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