The Oakwood City Council voted to pass a stream buffer ordinance Monday evening 4-1.
Oakwood City Manager Stan Brown said the City Council delayed the ordinance this summer when Hall County adopted the same rules in compliance with what was mandated by the state through the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District.
Brown said that Oakwood was one of the last cities that fell under the mandate to approve the stream buffer ordinance.
The stated purpose of the ordinance is to protect the public health, safety, environment and general welfare as well as to minimize public and private losses due to erosion and water pollution and to maintain stream water quality.
The ordinance seeks to implement these goals with provisions designed to create buffer zones along Oakwood’s streams and to minimize land development within stream buffers by establishing buffer zone requirements.
The buffer zone in Oakwood prior to the ordinance approval required an undisturbed natural vegetative buffer to be maintained for a distance of 50 feet on both banks of the stream.
The new ordinance tacks on an additional 25 feet of required area for a 75-foot buffer between the stream and any buildings or paved areas, mandated by Hall County and Oakwood
City Councilman Gary Anderson was not alone in his opposition to adopting the stream buffer ordinance.
During the public hearing, a private property owner with more than three acres near what he deemed a "wet weather stream" off Thurmond Tanner Parkway protested the ordinance and said that it would reduce his tract down to two acres.
Brown said that the ordinance does allow for some grandfather provisions, and that the individual’s property may be exempt from having to comply with the new ordinance.
However, Brown said that the property owner’s exemption from the new requirements will be based on whether or not a permit was properly obtained for the latest construction on the property. The existence of a properly obtained permit in this individual’s case has yet to be determined.
"The man is entitled to get everything out of his property he can," Oakwood Mayor Lamar Scroggs said. "We’re going to do what we can do to help citizens within the law to help (them) develop their land."
Anderson, the lone dissenter on the council, said that he voted against the ordinance during its first, second and final readings.
"I think the whole idea is bad government," he said. "It’s state-mandated and I don’t feel it’s needed or appropriate. I think it’s condemnation of personal property."
Anderson said that he believed the 50-foot buffer that was formerly in place was sufficient and will be sufficient in the future, and that an additional 25-foot buffer was unnecessary.
"It’s directly opposite of what private land ownership is all about," he said.
Brown said that the ordinance seeks to protect water quality, as a majority of Oakwood’s streams flow into Lake Lanier. But he said he believes that from an engineering standpoint, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done to determine what buffer footage is necessary in specific areas to achieve the ordinance’s goal of water quality protection.
"The council is strong on property rights," he said. "And the buffer dimension needs to be more technically based as opposed to an arbitrary number."