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Young harris college faces zoning issues

September 12, 2010

Erin Miracle Grable, Staff Writer

Students ponder the meaning behind this zoning sign, which is found in front of the Pruitt Barrett administrative building. Photo by Ashton Jones

Anyone notice the “Zoning sign” in front of the Pruitt-Barrett and Goolsby buildings? Any clue what it means? By taking a closer look students and faculty will learn that the sign indicates a public hearing that took place on Aug. 31, to discuss the idea of creating an Overlay District. The purpose of this district is “to carve out a special zoning district that would apply exclusively to Young Harris College,” according to documents from the City Hall of Young Harris. Ironically, this sign controls what other signs can or cannot be placed on campus.

According to the Planning Commission of the city of Young Harris, YHC  has requested that the city considers “adopting an Overlay District” for zoning purposes of the college’s campus. The district is divided into two sections or zones, Zone A and Zone B.

“The city simply revised the zoning ordinance. It is not a lot of changes, just updated,” said Andrea Gibby, mayor of the city of Young Harris. “We are trying to give the college more  leeway.”

Zone A includes central campus properties, mainly the old buildings and dorms on campus and where all classes are located. In this zone, the college is allowed to build structures up to 55 feet high, which is about where the recreational building is. Property in Zone A is not allowed to be located next to residential or U.S. Highway 76 areas. Because of this regulation, 50 foot buffers, which are trees, fences, etc., have to be in between campus buildings and houses.

“Building plans still have to be submitted, but through this district they can go up to 55feet without permission,” said Gibby. “We do not want big, giant billboards, but we also do not want to make them have to come to us every time for permission. It is aggravating.”

Zone B includes campus property that borders residential areas and U.S. Highway 76. The building height limit in Zone B is set at 40 feet since this zone interacts with residential housing and the highway. In this zone, it is required to apply for sign permits and pay permit fees if the sign is located within 50 feet of the center line of the U.S Highway. This zone interacts with residential and highway life, therefore a 50 foot setback is required by the city. The setback is measured from the side corner of the building in the area of Zone B to the property line in the residential or highway area.

“The overlay district helps eliminate unnecessary steps for the college,” said Gibby. “It eliminates the need for the coming to the council for permission to get a sign application every time a sign needs to be put up for anything such as a school dance or function.”

The college will provide tolerable room access for the loading and unloading of packages and vehicles in Zone A. This will bring less stress and chaos for the campus during the school year with mail arrival and during move-in time.

Young Harris recognizes the importance of preserving trees throughout the campus therefore, the planning commission and Young Harris came to an agreement. If the college has to cut down a tree, then they will plant back within six months, two times more than what was removed. This is “a great compromise,” according to Gibby.

“Whatever a city does, they have to be fair, and what we do for one person we have to do for the other,” said Gibby. “We are trying to beautify the city and keep a good relationship between the city, college and the residents.”

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