Rome officials jumped at a suggestion Tuesday to rezone the entire River District for urban mixed-use development.
“Anything that’s going to happen over there is going to be through UMU zoning,” said Bekki Fox, community development director, agreed.
Workers are gutting 401 W. Third St., the first step toward remodeling the vacant building next to the tennis courts for a restaurant. But Chief Building Official Howard Gibson said it took several months to issue the permits because the property first had to be rezoned.
Gibson said that most of the property in the district carries a commercial zoning that requires a dedicated parking lot.
Under UMU, businesses don’t have to provide off-street parking.
“We need to rezone that whole area. Places coming in do not need to wait on that process,” Gibson told members of the community development committee.
City Commissioners Wendy Davis and Bill Irmscher, who sit on the committee, said it’s up to the property owners to decide on the zoning they want — but the city should offer to waive the rezoning fees and initiate a blanket application.
“We’re looking to have that area come alive and thrive,” Davis said. “There’s no down side to UMU. It gives much more flexibility.”
City officials have been working for years to redevelop the River District as a modern extension of downtown Broad Street on the other side of the Oostanaula.
Consultants have drawn up a plan for a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood where people can live, work and play.
The UMU category allows high-density residential, commercial and office development with no parking or lot-size restrictions. Buildings can be up to 100 feet tall.
Rome-Floyd County Planning Director Artagus Newell and Associate Planner Brice Wood created a presentation last year promoting the benefits of UMU for the new district.
Davis and Irmscher asked that a showing be scheduled for the full Rome City Commission.
Meanwhile, Assistant City Manager Patrick Eidson suggested Newell draft letters advising River District property owners of the city’s rezoning plan and giving them an opportunity to opt out if they choose.