The Comp Plan & OW ZONING
Following a Comprehensive Use Plan is not as simple as some people might lead you to believe, and the rewrite of OI/OW zoning is no exception. It's may look simple when parts of the use plan are left out of the discussion, and rarely are things as simple as they first appear. The use of fleet vehicles in OW is a great example of this.
1) The reasoning I have seen presented so far is that the OW zoning district is part of the "Office Hub" character area in the Comprehensive Use Plan, along with the OI zoning district. The future vision is: "Office Hubs will serve as integrated centers of office uses that transition between higher intensity uses and existing neighborhoods. These business and incubator areas will be centers of innovation, leveraging the city’s diversity to attract unique businesses." Clearly this 100% fits OI (Office/Institutional) zoning, but for OW (Office/Warehousing) things start to get complicated.
2) What is being left out of the discussion so far is that OW is also included in the "Light Industrial District" along with M1 in our Comprehensive Use Plan. It might be convenient to not mention this, but the fact is: OW is placed in two seperate and very different character areas. Any decision we make about OW will have an effect on their allowed uses, and could easily create existing non-conforming uses, or an outright ban on new use, in places where that use conforms to the Comprehensive Use Plan. If we are going to make a big deal out of following the plan, let's actually follow the plan!
3) What I see from this is we are being asked to place 3 zoning types into 2 character areas and the OW zoning currently exists in both the "Office Hub" and the "Light manufacturing" areas on the Comprehensive Use MAP. We can't simply ignore that OW is listed in one of these character areas, nor can we ignore that OW is currently located in two different character areas on the map. That is selectively applying a chosen portion the comp plan, which isn't the task before us. I wish it was this easy, but it's not.
The hard job we are being asking to perform is: finding a balance between these two character areas. One that preserves the vision of the comp plan, while at the same time not creating a ban on uses in a map area the comp plan spells out for that use. There is no way to 100% apply either the "Office Hub" or the "Light Industrial" to OW and follow the Comprehensive Use Plan. Our job is to work out a compromise that helps us move towards our vision for the future, without negatively impacting current businesses and property owners, both of whom help fund the city today and many of them have for decades. That directive is also part of the Comprehensive Use Plan.
That said, I feel that putting the strict limit, as presented by staff and proposed by some of the council, for fleet vehicles in OW is not something we should be doing. Given OW is in both character zones, I think the balance might include some restrictions to their numbers (I agree unlimited is probably not appropriate) and define their location on the property (not in the front parking area). From my discussions with business owners and residents that would be most affected by these vehicles in the OW, I don't feel anyone is asking for them to be this restricted. If we do go forward with the heavy restrictions on fleet vehicles in OW, I feel we are clearly deviating from our agreed to Comprehensive Use Plan.
In the future there likely are a few properties that are currently OW that probably should be rezoned to OI, but we shouldn't be making long range zoning decisions based on something like that. I'm also not going to throw shock and awe images at you, I just want to present the facts and my reasoning on this subject. Please feel free to contact me with your opinions and suggestions.
Stephe Koontz, Doraville City Council District 3
678-373-7021 City Cell