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County to look at townhome zoning
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Effingham County commissioners are expected to take up a request for a new zoning category at its meeting this afternoon.

Commissioners tabled a request for R-8 single family zoning at their previous meeting. The R-8 would allow for up to eight townhomes to be built. It would also allow for single-family, detached homes.

Commissioners held a public hearing on the zoning ordinance amendment but tabled the matter until today’s meeting.

“We’re just looking at where we can go with this,” county planner George Shaw said.

The proposed ordinance contains design criteria to deal with the roads and would keep the higher density developments within two miles of city limits. That’s designed to keep those developments nearer available services.

County staff drew up the R-8 ordinance after requests to accommodate senior housing. On the drawing board — should the zoning ordinance go through — is a senior community for adults 55 and older who don’t want the upkeep that goes along with a house. Builders plan to put in walking trails and greenspace.

“There is a need for a retirement community in this county,” Jim Scott said at the November meeting. “It’s a money-saving thing because we don’t need schools and we bring in spending money. I’ve been talking about this since 1999.”

There were concerns of just what the higher-density zoning would mean, specifically to the environment, and to the amount of traffic on the roads.

“I think that eight houses on one acre is too many,” said Patricia Tebeau. “I think that five houses are too many. We’ve got to stop all this growth and just jamming people up behind each other.”

County fire chief Val Ashcraft also issued his concerns over the proposed zoning ordinance.

“Eight lots on one acre is a disaster waiting to happen,” he said. “You’re going to need fire stations within a mile and a half of these developments.”

Ashcraft said at the November meeting he had not had a chance to read the ordinance thoroughly.

County commission Chairperson Verna Phillips said she supported the efforts to provide more housing options for seniors.

“I think it’s a great project,” she said. “We need to take a look at taking care of the elderly. We need to make sure everyone who needs input into this has input.”