Developers will have to wait to build in Paulding under a decades-old zoning law some critics say is outdated and may be contributing to the increasing tax burden on homeowners for basic county services.
The 20-year-old law established a zoning category that allows large tracts of land to be developed as residential areas without any space reserved for commercial development, one homeowner said.
County commissioners recently voted to approve a 90-day moratorium through mid-January on the acceptance of new applications for construction within the Planned Residential Development (PRD) zoning category. Those who previously applied for the zoning were not affected.
Commissioners also asked Community Development Director Ann Lippmann to review the zoning category. Lippmann said her staff will look at the status of properties zoned PRD and review what the zoning ordinance allows “to make sure it is in compliance with future visions for the county.”
The PRD category requires a project to include at least 50 acres. Area residents have complained that such subdivisions negatively affected their property values because some developers were allowed to use cheaper building materials, or left large portions of their projects undeveloped during the housing industry downturn of the late 2000s.
Commissioner Tony Crowe’s district includes the rapidly growing area surrounding Cedarcrest Road in northeast Paulding. He said he supported the action because of the need to update requirements in the zoning category to better protect property values as new projects are built.
In addition, some residents say a zoning revision is needed to encourage more commercial and industrial development in the heavily residential county.
Commercial and industrial properties comprised about 15 percent of Paulding County’s total 2016 tax digest, compared to 45 percent of neighboring Douglas County’s tax digest and 31 percent of Cobb County’s digest, according to the Georgia Department of Revenue.
Paulding collected about one-third of what neighboring Douglas County collected in property taxes from commercial and industrial taxpayers despite Paulding being about 9 percent larger in population.
County school finance director Steve Barnette told school board members earlier this year Paulding’s residential sector funded a higher share of the budget than neighboring counties where industry was more prevalent, such as Douglas and Cobb.
Jason Anavitarte, a resident of the Cedarcrest area, worked with Crowe to convince commissioners of the need for the moratorium and revision.
He said the PRD zoning classification is “symbolic of a big bedroom community.” It has had the effect of crowding out commercial development the county badly needs to diversify its tax base and move away from almost total reliance on homeowners for basic services, he said.
Development of such large-scale residential projects also has resulted in developers clear-cutting trees and leaving large amounts of acreage barren for long periods of time, Anavitarte said.
Hiram Mayor Teresa Philyaw told county commissioners in a recent letter she wanted the county to go one step further and consider a moratorium on all new residential construction — if not countywide then at least in southeast Paulding.
She said she wanted a moratorium in place “just for awhile” — possibly long enough to allow the needed infrastructure to be in place before more residential construction is done.
Philyaw also said she believed the county needed to focus on encouraging industrial growth. A 2016 future land use study for the county showed southeast Paulding could be a prime location for industrial development because the current and future widening of Ga. Hwy. 92 will create easier access to Interstate 20 in Douglas County, she said.
She noted the county commission and school district were forced to increase their property tax rates to fund their 2018 budget needs — further increasing the residential sector’s share of funding services.
Continuing to allow unbridled residential growth will create the need for more basic services without more commercial or industrial taxpayers to help lighten the load, Philyaw said.
“You’re looking at several more schools,” she said.