Polk amends zoning ordinance to allow other schools in RE1

Published 8:00 pm Monday, October 17, 2016

COLUMBUS- The Polk County Board of Commissioners amended the county’s zoning ordinance to allow other schools in the RE1 (Residential Estate) zoning district in order to allow the Polk County Cooperative Extension Office to relocate to the former adult day building, located off Skyuka Road in the Columbus Township.

Commissioners met Oct. 3 and held a public hearing regarding the proposed amendment to the zoning ordinance.

The former ordinance allowed for schools but the definition was for the schools to have a full curriculum. The amendment was to allow a special school that would include the type of instruction the cooperative extension and 4-H center conducts.

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During citizen comments, there was some discussion regarding whether the amendment could allow any business to locate in the RE1 district. The RE1 district is basically along Skyuka Road, which was requested by homeowners in the 1990s and includes residential with a minimum of one acre.

Resident Bill Smith said that the amendment needs to be more specific. He said by saying the rezoning is for businesses and special schools, he believes it is an underhanded way of putting eminent domain on people in that area.

“So we don’t fall into a ditch and get some other type of school no one is anticipating,” Smith said.

Commissioner Ted Owens said the amendment will not mean that any business can be located there if commissioners approve it.

County attorney Jana Berg said it would have to be a school that does not offer a complete curriculum but also operated by a public or private entity. So there could be a charter school allowed, but it would have to be operated by a board of trustee or publicly elected officials. Berg said the word business has to be incorporated in the amendment to allow what the cooperative extension and 4-H center offers.

Commissioners decided to change the proposed amendment to allow schools, vocational schools, business schools and special schools as a permitted use in the RE1 district. Adding the word schools after every use will clarify that general businesses are still not allowed in the district.

Earlier this year commissioners were considering trading the 4-H center property with the former adult day building and some property in order to construct the new law enforcement center at the 4-H center property. The deal fell through after the county found property adjacent to the Milliken plant just outside Columbus in order to construct the new law enforcement center, to include a new jail and future courthouse.

The former negotiations with the 4-H center included that the 4-H center and the cooperative extension office be moved to the former adult day building that the county owns. The amendment to the zoning ordinance was needed so those uses would be permitted at the former adult day building. The building is located off Skyuka Road, directly behind the Meeting Place Senior Center. All the property was originally Carolina Classical School, until the school closed and the county purchased the property.