By Christy Smith
BETHLEHEM - For about seven years, Bethlehem town officials have let Barrow County's Planning Board make recommendations regarding the town's rezonings. That could change in August, as Town Council members consider taking rezonings into their own hands.
Bethlehem and Barrow County entered into an intergovernmental agreement about seven years ago, Mayor Wayne Ridgeway said, that allows the county to handle Bethlehem's permitting, applications, inspections and rezonings.
When a Bethlehem property owner wants to rezone their land, they apply to Barrow County. The application then goes before the Barrow County Planning Commission that recommends either approval or denial of the rezoning request. Bethlehem Town Council members then vote in a council meeting whether or not to rezone the property.
Under the proposal, Bethlehem Town Council members would hear the request, rather than the county's Planning Commission.
"There's been times when there's been information the council would have liked to have had before making a decision," Ridgeway said. "This proposal would give council members the chance to talk to the applicant."
Town Council members will vote on the proposal in the Aug. 6 council meeting. If passed, the change would apply only to rezonings. The remainder of the intergovernmental agreement would remain the same, Ridgeway said.
"It's a positive step as far as communication," Ridgeway said.
Last spring, Barrow County Commissioners were set to hear a request to disband the Planning Commission.
Guy Herring, Barrow County's planning director, said "State law allows it. It will mean changing the intergovernmental agreement and that will need a vote by commissioners. The proposal does not affect Barrow County. We will continue to serve Bethlehem however they wish."
Bethlehem buys house
Bethlehem could have a library, more office space or greenspace next to the park. In June, the town purchased the brick ranch house at 28 E. Star St. for $88,416, paid for with general revenue funds.
The house stands between the city park and the city's storage building.
"It gives the town that whole strip of property," said Joyce Hogan, town clerk.
The 15-year-old, 1,020 square-foot, two-bedroom, one-bath house was owned by Mildred Parten.
An appraiser deemed the house in good shape, Ridgeway said.
Town Council members will meet Monday (July 23) to tour the house and begin considering options. The city could turn it into a library, office space, or tear it down, Ridgeway said.