Assisted living home zoning on BOC agenda

CONYERS -- Another assisted living center is on its way to Rockdale County -- against the wishes of local residents who expressed their dissent at Thursday's Conyers/Rockdale Planning Commission meeting.

Avondale Retail asked to rezone a little more than 3 acres of land on the corner of Salem Road and Avondale Boulevard from Neighborhood Commercial to Civic Institutional District inside the Salem Road Corridor Overlay District.

Jeramy Ragsdale, who spoke on behalf of the applicant, described the facility as a 54-room building.

"We will create about 32 jobs in the new facility," Ragsdale said. "We (will) have a very positive impact, needless to say, on the tax base."

Avondale Boulevard resident Cathy Rutledge spoke in opposition and contended traffic in the area would intensify if the assisted living center was allowed.

"You can't even walk around there. It's too dangerous because of the traffic flow," Rutledge said.

Rutledge added she owns an assisted living center in South Carolina, and built away from any nearby residents.

"It's a lot of traffic. It's going to cause a lot of confusion," Rutledge said.

Ragsdale contended that assisted living homes do not create that much traffic and would generate much less than what current zoning allows. Planner Scott Gaither explained the land's current zoning allows for a fast-food restaurant or a pharmacy.

Planning Commission Member Chuck Russell expressed concern of egress and ingress of the property onto Salem Road, one of the busiest thoroughfares in the county. He also asked about plans to expand Salem Road, which is a state highway, from two to six lanes from Flat Shoals Road south through Newton County.

"I'm pretty sure it's suicide trying to make a left out (of) there at certain times of the day," Russell said.

Gaither explained the road widening is a long-term project with ongoing uncertainty over funding between the two counties and the Georgia Department of Transportation.

From what the planning and zoning department understood, funding would not be available until 2014, according to Gaither.

The Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval, which goes to another public hearing held by the Rockdale County Board of Commissioners on Thursday.

Planning Commissioner Linda Carter made the motion to recommend approval and Commissioner Tom Harrison seconded it.

"I think it's the lesser of the evils, at this point," Harrison said.