Pembroke City Hall was packed Monday evening as residents showed up to voice concerns over proposed zoning changes.
The public hearing brought out concerns over livestock regulations, population growth and council’s motives for changing properties of five acres or less from an agricultural to residential designation.
Most concerns came down to an expressed desire of the landowners present at the meeting for Pembroke to not become the next Richmond Hill or Pooler, but to remain the quiet, rural, small town that had originally drawn them there in the first place.
Property owners in the affected zoning area had received a letter from the planning and zoning commission advising them that the city would be re-zoning their property from AR-1 Agricultural-Residential to R-1 Single Family Residential. This zoning change will affect approximately 225 parcels.
Because many of these parcels are two acres or less, buildings and structures that currently exist do not meet the setback requirements for structures in the AR-1 zone. This essentially means that should a current home or structure burn down or be otherwise damaged, a new one could not be built in its place and meet the existing standards for that zoning designation.
The setback requirements for structures located within a residential zone, however, would allow for houses and other buildings to be closer to the property line. The change would thereby enable the property owners within this current AR-1 zone more options for ways to use and even subdivide their own property, should they choose to do so, once it is rezoned as residential.
Some property owners, however, took this to mean that the city was interested in rezoning their property to pave the way for subdividing the larger lots and make way for population growth. At which point, Reams pointed out that the city cannot subdivide private property, only the property owners have that right.
"I think this council is for controlled growth," Mayor Judy Cook interjected. "We don’t want to be Pooler, we don’t want to be Richmond Hill. We want to keep our small town atmosphere."
She went on to explain, "When we annexed that property, we should have rezoned it back then. We want to make it easier for the people (who may want to subdivide or add a building or add on to an existing building)… because when you go in and start rezoning, spot rezoning, it can cause a lot of issues."
The proposed zoning change will come before council for a vote during the June meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. June 12.
Those who own property that is currently zoned as AR-1 and have less than five acres can make their case to the council why they should be allowed to opt out of the rezoning.
"You don’t have the automatic right to opt out, but you can make the case for it," City Attorney Dana Braun said.
Those who own five acres or more will not be affected by the zoning change.