Local artisan Lindsay Mastro wiped a tear from the corner of his eye after he’d made a passionate plea Tuesday for the right to move his custom shield and coats-of-arms assembly work into a long-vacant industrial building in a quiet residential area of Cave Spring.

“I’ve been trying to buy the property for a year,” Mastro explained privately before exiting the first meeting of the Rome-Floyd County Planning Commission’s newly-formed Unified Land Development Code subcommittee.

“Unfortunately, my wife and I have been unable to move into the neighborhood because of the way the property is zoned, but it’s been an industrial building since 1976,” he said. “I’m retired and really don’t need all this aggravation.”

He wasn’t the only one the subcommittee heard from on the issue during the two-hour meeting as they attempted to grapple with updating the 20-year-old ULDC to accommodate “arts and crafts” types of businesses.

Cave Spring residents living near the 68-acre property at the corner of Fosters Mill Road and Melson Road also had their say once again. This has been an ongoing issue in the county since last spring, when the Mastros first tried to apply for rezoning.

The couple closed their factory in an industrial park and want to settle on the land owned by the James Garner family.

The property is currently zoned Suburban Residential, which doesn’t allow for the kind of business proposed by the Mastros. However, operations over the past 40 years in the 6,000-square-foot building have included Cave Spring Bottling and Garner Brothers Construction.

“The building is being used the same way it has been for its entire life. To even begin to say it has no useful life left is completely off the mark,” James Garner told the subcommittee. “This building was in existence before the ULDC was originally passed. All we’re trying to do is give this man some really good property.”

The subcommittee consists of some planning commission members, planning staff, building officials and the city engineer and assistant manager.

Rome-Floyd County Planning Director Artagus Newell presented the subcommittee with a draft ordinance amendment to the ULDC to include “Artisan Crafts Manufacturing, Artisans or Crafts Studio, and Artisan Food and Beverage” and their list of permitted uses in residential and agricultural districts.

Seven standards were outlined, including the ability to have “production activities within an enclosed building,” but prohibiting outdoor storage of equipment, the use or storage of hazardous materials and trucks any larger than a delivery van or box truck.

Mastro argued that the restriction on hazardous materials would affect his use of spray paints and that the truck sizes are not realistic, since any furniture ordered from an online company would require a tractor-trailer on the property.

Three Fosters Mill Road residents told the subcommittee that if they allow Mastro to have his business there, it will not only affect their immediate area but have widespread implications for the entire county.

They said they have 847 signatures on a petition opposing the land use.

They suggested following the lead of Paulding and Bartow counties and getting guidance from the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission on Jackson Hill in Rome.

Newell said he’s often in touch with the NWGRC and will continue to reach out to them. He also said he’d look at Fosters Mill resident Terri Wright’s research on the matter before the next subcommittee meeting on the third Tuesday of the month.

“There has to be some type of reasonable balance between parameters set where someone could apply for a zoning permit and yet still have protections for the citizens who live nearby,” Newell said.

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