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Gainesville planning board backs standards for group homes
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Gainesville’s Planning and Appeals Board on Tuesday voted to recommend that the City Council approve a number of changes to the city’s Unified Land Development Code.

If approved by the council next month, the changes would affect 44 areas of the code including applying standards for group homes, allowing larger monument signs within the residential-office zoning district and clarifying the waiting period for reapplication for zoning changes and special uses for a period of six months from the original denial.

The issue of group homes has come before the planners and the City Council.

Last year, owners of two group homes for a substance abuse recovery program filed a lawsuit against the city of Gainesville. The city denies the owners’ claims that the City Council violated the Federal Fair Housing Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act when it changed city code regarding group homes.

Gainesville residents living near previous group homes had told City Council they didn’t want the homes in their neighborhood.

The council has final say on the changes, and it will hold the first hearing Dec. 1.

The board also voted to recommend approval of a request by Scott Wright to annex two properties on McConnell Drive with a Residential II zoning.

Wright said he eventually plans to subdivide the property from two to three lots and connect the properties to city sewer. The City Council will have the final say on the annexation and will hold a public hearing on the matter Dec. 1.

In other business Tuesday, the board:

  • Voted to approve a request from Boyer Engineering and Associates of Lawrenceville to vary the city’s stream buffer requirement for a the construction of a future facility for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County near Lyman Hall Elementary School on Memorial Drive. The city’s land development code requires a 75 foot-protection buffer between buildings and streams to maintain water quality. Of that 75 feet, the 50 feet closest to the stream bank must be kept as an undisturbed natural vegetative buffer. A plan for the building keeps the building and the parking area out of the 75 foot stream buffer area, but would call for slope grading within the 50 foot undisturbed area. The board’s decision is final.
  • Voted to approve a request from Jim Syfan to vary the city’s rule on signs for a building housing five separate truck-related businesses on Old Candler Road. Syfan asked the board to vary the city’s ordinances on sign height, size and type to allow a three-pole sign that would be visible from Candler Road. Candler Road is separated from the property by railroad right of way, Old Candler Road and privately owned land. The board approved the request on the condition that the area of the proposed sign should be limited to no more than 360 square feet and 140 square feet of sign face area. The board’s decision is final.