Developer withdraws Olive Garden rezoning request, can bring it back later

Matt Hamilton/Daily Citizen-News

A developer Monday night withdrew a request for the rezoning of a residential property behind the former O'Charley's on West Walnut Avenue to create parking his attorney had previously said was needed for a proposed Olive Garden restaurant. The measure can be brought back before the Dalton City Council at any time.

 

Developer Anish Govan withdrew a request to rezone 1.7 acres his family owns at 108 Kinnier Court, in the Dickson Acres subdivision, to C-2 commercial from R-1 residential just before the opening of the Dalton City Council meeting Monday night.

But Govan has the right to bring the matter back before the council at any time, and that has many residents of Dickson Acres, who say they don't want commercial encroachment in the neighborhood, upset.

"Does this mean it's over?" asked Dickson Acres resident Drayton Sanders after Mayor David Pennington announced Govan had withdrawn the request and the council members voted 4-0 to amend their agenda to remove the item.

"He can bring it back before us next month or in six months," sad Pennington, who typically votes only in the event of a tie.

In November, Dalton attorney Daniel Laird told members of the Dalton-Whitfield Planning Commission that developers Govan and his father Naren Patel planned to bring an Olive Garden to the former site of the O'Charley's restaurant at 1520 W. Walnut Ave., which is near the interstate.

But Laird said Olive Garden requires 150 to 180 parking spaces, almost double what the site has. Govan requested the city rezone the Kinnier Court property, which is adjacent to the O'Charley's site, so they could demolish the house on the site and turn it into a parking lot with about 80 spaces.

Planning commission members voted 3-0 to recommend denying the rezoning request, saying they didn't want to see a change in the nature of Dickson Acres.

City Attorney Gandi Vaughn said Laird contacted him Monday afternoon and told him Govan was considering withdrawing the rezoning request. Vaughn said Laird told him Govan was withdrawing the request about five minutes before the 6 p.m. start of the council meeting. Vaughn said Laird did not say why the request was being withdrawn.

More than 50 residents of Dickson Acres and nearby neighborhoods had come to the council meeting to oppose the rezoning request.

Dalton resident Carol Lumpkin asked council members to "draw a line in the sand" and say they will not allow commercial zoning in the neighborhood. But Vaughn cautioned that state law requires the council to consider each rezoning request on its own merits. He also said the council cannot bind future councils, so even if council members adopted such a policy it could only last until the next city election.

Kathryn Sellers, a member of the Dalton Historic Preservation Commission, said having Dickson Acres declared a historic district could protect it from commercial encroachment.

"Dickson Acres is over 50 years old," she said. "It is eligible to become a historic district."

Sellers said residents would have to apply to the state Historic Preservation Division. The state would then forward the application to the federal Department of the Interior.

"That would then come back to the city and it would become a local historic district," she said. "It gives them all sorts of protections. For instance, there would be design requirements. Somebody couldn't build a five-story square building in that district."

That idea seemed to meet with approval from the Dickson Acres residents at the meeting.

Council member Annalee Harlan asked if the city can set a time limit on when someone can bring a rezoning request back before the council after withdrawing it. Vaughn said he believed it could.

"What I would like to do is to review state law to see if there is anything that would keep us from doing that," he said.

Council members also voted 4-0 to:

• Adopt an updated unified zoning ordinance of Whitfield County. Officials said the update clarified some definitions in the law but made no significant changes to the law.

• Approved a two-year, $135,000 service agreement with the Downtown Dalton Development Authority (DDDA). The agreement calls on the DDDA to perform a number of services, including recruiting and retaining small businesses in the downtown business district, finding uses for unoccupied buildings and finding ways to promote residential development downtown.

• Approve a resolution supporting a bill at the state level to allow Dalton Utilities to borrow money for electrical assets without a public referendum. The state House of Representatives narrowly defeated a bill last year that would have allowed the utility to borrow money for electrical assets without going to the voters. Under that bill, the utility would still have to have approval from its board and from the City Council to borrow money for electrical. The utility does not need voter approval to borrow money for natural gas, water and sewer.

Dalton Utilities CEO Tom Bundros said if the bill passes, the utility would still need to have the approval of its board, the City Council and a Superior Court judge before it could borrow money for electrical.

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