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Jonesboro looking at zoning

By Ed Brock

ebrock@news-daily.com

The city of Jonesboro is planning some big changes on its zoning ordinance and they want to hear what the citizens have to say about it.

A public hearing has been scheduled for June 27 at the Jonesboro Police Headquarters on Main Street. The consulting company Strategic Planning Initiative has been working on the ordinance since last June, said City Manager Jon Walker.

"They've really tried to preserve the historic nature of the city," Walker said.

The proposed changes include new development regulations that would, for example, limit the application of vinyl siding to residential buildings only, and that would have to be high grade siding. Some residential zones would be changed to allow for high density cluster homes.

Some of the biggest changes will come in the development of two historic districts and what will be allowed there.

"Everything that happens in that district has to go before the historic development authority," Walker said.

One change would be a restriction on new development in what is called "lawyer row" on Main Street, so named because most of the historic buildings lining the road house offices for lawyers and some other businesses. The new ordinance would restrict new development on the first floor of those buildings to commercial and retail use and would limit office space to the second floor.

"I'm interested in what people will say about that," Walker said. "It's to promote downtown becoming a commercial district again."

Also, the ordinance would allow owners of certain historic homes along McDonough Street and Main Street to use their homes as either office space or residences by right. That means they can sell a residential home to a person who would use it as an office, and that person could then sell it again for residential use, or they could live above their office.

"What we're really trying to protect here is the structure of the building and the feel of the community, the view from the street," Walker said.

Walker said the city really needs input from the citizens. Some of those citizens are already talking about the zoning and don't appear to be happy about it.

Members of the Jonesboro Pride Civic Association say they attended a council meeting on the proposed changes last week and were disturbed by what they heard. The regulations requiring high quality vinyl siding on homes and other things would place too much of a hardship on the city's poor and elderly, said Jonesboro Pride member Nancy Coffman.

"As long as you don't do anything you're fine. But if you want to do something it's going to be bad," Coffman said. "I got the feeling they were trying to make everything look like Peachtree City."

She was also worried about the requirement for commercial and retail development on the first floors of "lawyer row."