Before he was even sworn in as a newly elected Rome city commissioner, Mark Cochran advocated during the commission’s Monday caucus that the Unified Land Development Code be completely recrafted from the ground up.
“I hear it from contractors and developers I deal with personally on a daily basis,” said Cochran, the owner of the Rome architecture firm Cevian Design Lab. “It’s a difficult document to understand. It’s poorly written and has been cobbled together over the last 19 years in an unholistic manner. I’m not sure it’s fatally flawed, but it’s pretty close.”
Although a new Rome-Floyd Planning Commission subcommittee already is working on updating the ULDC that hasn’t been touched for the past 20 years, Cochran told commissioners and city leaders he met recently with City Manager Sammy Rich, Chief Building Official James Martin and Rome-Floyd County Associate Planner Brice Wood about the ULDC.
Cochran said he believes that if the city and county agree with him that it needs more overhauling than originally thought, the planning staff is more than capable of leading the charge — instead of hiring a costly consultant.
“I’m not saying do away with the land development code completely at all,” he said. “I’m just saying the land development code that we have was adopted by multiple municipalities and we’re the only one that still uses it. All the others have modified or evolved them.”
Commissioners Craig McDaniel and Wendy Davis agreed the zoning document adopted in August 2001 and amended many times over the years does need some revamping.
“I’m not a fan of getting rid of the whole thing, but there are a lot of pieces of it that could be worked on,” Davis said, explaining she’d like to see more flexibility between commercial and residential zones to allow a greater variety of housing throughout the area. “I’m not saying go crazy here, but I think this is a good time for us to look at it.”
Mayor Bill Collins explained to Cochran and his fellow new commissioners Jim Bojo and Bonny Askew that a lot of community input went into the original document.
“It was a big undertaking,” Collins said.
The veterans on the board also remember how resistant the county commission was to any zoning regulations at all back then.
“There were county commissioners who would not take part in the process,” McDaniel recalled. “One of the commissioners would not even meet at the library because of the way the library was funded. We had to meet somewhere else and then they told us that if we were there to impose zoning in the county, there wasn’t any reason to continue with the meeting.”
Rich said that, back then, the planning director wasn’t even permitted to be involved in the process.
“So there were challenges,” Rich said as Davis openly laughed. “The big challenge was in getting two governmental bodies into one document, and so just the fact that that was adopted to get us where we are is miraculous.”