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LaGrange City Council tweaks roadside produce rules, moves forward on rezoning

 The LaGrange City Council unanimously approved an ordinance changing the way the city governs roadside produce vendors at its Tuesday night meeting.

The vendors are governed by the “transient merchants” ordinance and were previously subject to durational restrictions. Those restrictions allow the vendors to operate in the city for 10 consecutive days, but require them to then leave for 60 days.

The aim of the new ordinance is to carve out an exception for produce vendors that mirrors the recent change to the food truck ordinance. Under the new ordinance, vendors can now sell their produce three consecutive days out of the week, with no requirement that they leave for 60 days.

Gaskin and Councilman Willie Edmondson have both advocated for the carve-out, saying that produce vendors serve an important function in their district.

Under public hearings, a hearing and first reading was held to rezone property at 111 and 115 Fort Drive from R-3 (residential) to C-3 (general commercial). Nobody spoke in favor or opposition. The property, located between Hamilton and Whitesville Roads, would be rezoned in order to develop retail and warehouse space there. The Board of Planning and Zoning has recommended adoption. A second reading will be held at the council’s next meeting on Feb. 23.

Petitions to move forward with several annexations and rezonings were approved. 

The first was to annex property on Busch Drive owned by LaGrange Grocery Co., an alcohol distributor. The request will now go to planning and zoning and seek input from the county.

Another request was to rezone property at 507 Jenkins Street from R-2 (residential) to OIR (office/institutional/residential). The property is owned by Heart and Vascular Care of Georgia, located next door at 505 Jenkins Street. The private practice wants to use the lot as off-street parking for its employees while having patients park at 505 Jenkins Street. A public hearing was scheduled for the March 9 meeting.

The Board of Planning and Zoning has recommended adoption with one condition — the property will become an accessory and the parcels will be combined. 

At the work session, Councilman Nathan Gaskin asked for planning and zoning to work to require a sidewalk on the street. 

Kelsey said at the meeting that night that the city will look into getting a cost estimate for a sidewalk.

The rezoning could face hiccups in the future due to a preexisting driveway at the vacant lot that is within 10 feet of a house at 509 Jenkins Street. 

Dr. Angampally Rajeev of Heart and Vascular Care of Georgia has offered to buy the property at 509 Jenkins Street, according to city planner Mark Kostial, but has not been able to agree on a price with the owner of the property.

A March 9 public hearing was also scheduled for a rezoning at 508 Greenville Street from C1 (neighborhood commercial) to C3 (general commercial) with R3 (residential) usage in conjunction with a special use permit.

The property was formerly the Thyme Away Bed & Breakfast and is currently being used as an office for the Calumet Center for Healing and Attachment, which works with women seeking recovery-support services for trauma, mental illness or substance abuse.

The Calumet Center recently merged with New Ventures, Inc. 

Kostial said at the work session he had met with Mike Wilson of New Ventures and Michele Bedingfield of the Calumet Center. Their goal is to establish a group residential facility at this location, with the residents being relocated from another property at 99 Johnson Street.

The facility would have a maximum of 10 clients. Each client has finished treatment and been through recovery. 

The property would be used as an independent living facility with a common community space. New Ventures would also use part of the property as an office space.

Women would live together in a long-term, family-like environment, with staff providing care and education and the clients participating in community activities. There is a requirement for 24-hour supervision from the city. 

Women with a history of prior substance abuse must demonstrate that they are living in recovery in order to be considered for the program, Kostial was told.

Kostial said he researched the Johnson Street property to see if there had been police called there recently. 

Over the past 25 months, there have been 16 calls for service, but the vast majority were accidental alarm activations. It did not appear that any clients had been arrested.

The Board of Planning and Zoning has recommended approval.

Finally, the council approved an amendment to an intergovernmental contract regarding conveyance of industrial property adjacent to upper Big Springs Road. The property is slated to be used to build a large indoor lettuce plant. 

The amendment pushes back closing the deal. The property is being conveyed from the city to the Development Authority of LaGrange. 

Originally planned for mid-February, closing is now scheduled for May.