Duluth OKs rezoning for closed fire station

DULUTH -- The Duluth City Council on Monday approved a modified rezoning for the former Gwinnett County Fire Station No. 7 property that allows a landscaping company to operate on the site.

Blake Manton, representing Manton Brothers LLC, originally sought to rezone the 1.94 acres along Ga. Highway 120 from single-family residential to general business district. The rezoning request was changed from general business to office-institutional to adhere to the city's 2030 Comprehensive Plan.

Manton Brothers purchased the fire station site after it was abandoned by the county and proposed to adapt and expand the former station to serve as an office for ImageScapes, a Duluth-based landscaping business owned by Blake and Brinson Manton.

The council granted a conditional-use permit that allows the landscape company to operate a contractor's office with outdoor storage on the property. Stored equipment and landscaping materials would have to be screened from view. The Mantons plan to erect a wooden fence.

The council also adopted an amendment to the city's zoning ordinance that removes the property from the city's Downtown Overlay District eliminating restrictions on outdoor storage and reducing requirements for fencing and roofing materials.

The city's planning commission recommended approval of the modified rezoning along with removing the property from the overlay district at its February meeting.

Duluth Planning Director Cliff Cross had recommended at the Jan. 25 City Council meeting that the applicant modify the rezoning to office-institutional, which would comply with the land-use plan, and the council tabled action on the initial request. Cross also suggested removing the property from the overlay district.

Councilwoman Marsha Bomar had encouraged Cross and the planning staff to work with the applicant. The landscaping company would be an innovative reuse of the vacant fire station property, she said.

The applicant further wants to lease adjacent property owned by Georgia Power to park equipment and store materials.

The council also removed the Georgia Power property from the overlay district. However, the Georgia Power property would need to be rezoned since its current neighborhood business zoning does not allow outdoor storage, Cross said.

A change in council meetings for the remainder of 2010 was approved by the council. Starting in March, the Duluth City Council will hold regular meetings starting at 7 p.m. on the second Monday of the month at City Hall. The meetings usually held on the fourth Monday will become informal work sessions beginning at 5:30 p.m. in City Hall.

The council appointed members to serve on various city boards and committees.