Rockmart City Council June 2019

The Rockmart City Council came back into session on June 13 to approve a conditional-use request on two former schools being turned into housing owned by the Northwest Georgia Housing Authority.

The Rockmart City Council gave their OK in a 3-0 vote to allow for the Northwest Georgia Housing Authority to have conditional use for zoning purposes to move forward with projects at two old schools, though they’ll have to follow some stipulations in the process.

Rockmart City Attorney Mike McRae said concerns voiced during the city council’s regular session on June 11 and subsequent tabling of the request prompted a follow-up special called session of the council to address those issues in approval of the measure.

Additional community input meetings will be required of the Northwest Georgia Housing Authority to better communicate plans for development of the Elm Street School and Euharlee School properties into a pair of new developments for low income and senior residences. Also, McRae said the council’s approval is also stipulated on plans being available for public view ahead of any construction, and the opportunity for comments to be submitted for further review.

McRae said that “these conditions must be met before a building permit will be issued” to begin construction on the project.

”What happens at this stage is the zoning for the potential use of the project,” he further explained.

He added the community input from neighbors around the project gave rise to the need to include stipulations, which the Northwest Georgia Housing Authority agreed to without issue.

Rockmart’s Director of Community Development Stacey Smith also laid out additional details about the project. The number of units is currently set for 25 units to be renovated and made available for rent through the Housing Authority at the former Euharlee School building, and an additional 50 units will be opened up at the Elm Street School once all renovations are complete.

Smith also said the development plans include some public spaces like a new basketball court that money is being sought to help develop, and that the former middle school site is also looking to get a residential community room and a swimming pool.

Grant money is also being sought to help fund the project, Smith said.

With Mayor Pro Tem James Payne absent from the special called session on June 13 to approve the conditional use requests, the council’s vote ended in a 3-0 for the measure due to the need for council member Lucille Harris to recuse herself in the vote.

Harris owns property adjacent to one of the school sites, and McRae explained that presented a conflict since she could benefit from the development by the Northwest Georgia Housing Authority due to increased property values.

She agreed to recuse herself, and it was noted for the record.

During a public hearing on June 11 over the conditional use requests, several residents on Rockmart’s west side voice concerns over the project and prompted the need to table briefly.

{div}Community questions over the project were mainly based on a lack of information being shared. Those living near the would-be apartments were unsure which income level would be served, questioned why there was a need for more apartments in the area, and worried for the fate of certain historic buildings around the area. {div} {div}While the questions were directed to Mayor Stephen Miller and the council, the creation of the apartments is not a city project and they needed to gather their own information to answer those queries.

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