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LaGrange rezones lots off Ragland, moves to change food truck rules

The LaGrange City Council rezoned property off Ragland Street Tuesday night to allow duplexes to be built there. Council members also moved forward on an ordinance to change regulations around food trucks.

The rezoning of several lots on Jordans Way and Aaron Drive was passed in order for owner West Georgia Star, a nonprofit company of the LaGrange Housing Authority, to build duplexes there.

West Georgia Star plans to combine the parcels, located off Ragland Street near its intersection with Colquitt Street, into larger lots. Then, it hopes to build six duplexes of two apartments each, which will house 12 families currently living at other apartment complexes.

At a prior work session, Council Member Willie Edmondson said he had heard concerns about the rezoning from residents, namely people living in nearby Tucker Cottages.

At the Dec. 8 council meeting, a public hearing was held on the matter, but nobody spoke on it. Several residents of Tucker Cottages did come before the council on Tuesday, however.

Despite there not being a public hearing scheduled, Mayor Jim Thornton said he would entertain “very brief” comments from the people who showed up.

Several Tucker Cottages residents said they were concerned about families coming into their neighborhood, which is primarily seniors. Edmondson had previously inquired about age restrictions but was told by the city attorney they did not have that authority.

Thornton explained to residents that the council had no authority over who could live there, only whether it was rezoned.

“The owner of the property could build rental houses … they could build those today and rent them out to families with children,” Thornton said. “What’s being requested is to allow a zoning change to build duplexes in lieu of single family homes. That’s the only issue that’s on the table.”

Sam Cameron, who lives on Ragland Street, said he was concerned because the apartments on Cross Creek Drive were already a disturbance. He said he hears loud music, cars spinning tires and other noise.

Some residents said they were not informed about the proposed change.

LaGrange Housing Authority Facilities Director Earnest Pickett said he conducted meetings to get community input and delivered letters to Tucker Cottages residents. Residents disputed that letters were sent, and Mayor Pro Tem Nathan Gaskin said he wanted to see a copy of the letter.

“We’re not going to take this area and change it or impoverish it, that’s not what we do … what we’re trying to put in the area now is housing for working class people,” Pickett told the council, saying that the houses would be a stepping stone for working families.

The vote was 4-0, with Edmondson abstaining. Edmondson asked Pickett and other housing authority staff to be sensitive to the concerns of Tucker Cottages residents when building the houses.

“A lot of them have sold their homes and moved in Tucker Cottages because they want to have something quiet and a retirement community,” Edmondson said.

Gaskin said he “understand[s] the quality of life that you [residents] want to maintain,” but that he was voting in favor because “something needs to be done to mitigate the housing shortage that we have.”

In other business, the council held a public hearing and first reading of an ordinance that would change regulations for food trucks.

The first part of the ordinance carves out an exception for restaurants and event centers in the C2 and C3 districts that allows them to operate food trucks on their own lots whenever they want, for as long as they please. Other vendors have a durational requirement, which was put in place years ago to prevent out-of-town trucks from competing with local brick-and-mortar restaurants.

The durational requirement for other food trucks would also change under the ordinance. Currently, trucks can stay for 10 consecutive days and then must leave for 60 days. Under the new ordinance, they could stay in three-day increments.

Durational requirements do not apply to events on public property sanctioned and approved by Downtown LaGrange or the Troup County Parks and Recreation Commission.

Finally, the council scheduled a public hearing for Jan. 12 on a proposal to annex and zone the property at 71 Busch Drive. Wild Leap Brewing Co. wants the property to be annexed into the city and use the property as a warehouse.

City staff have recommended the property be zoned general industrial. The county has no issue with the property being annexed, staff indicated.