City Council agreed Tuesday to make the City of Statesboro a greener place to live – literally.
On the same day officials met to discuss proposed changes to the city’s tree ordinance, which determines the amount and kind of trees required on commercial properties, Council unanimously approved the first reading of a motion that would allow new businesses within the city to provide less off-street parking.
The land spared by requiring fewer parking spaces will be used for additional landscape, avoiding the blight of massive, oft-empty parking lots within Statesboro, according to City Manager Frank Parker.
Council voted to amend Article XVI of the Statesboro Zoning Ordinance, which pertains to parking regulations for developed sites, during a scheduled meeting in City Hall’s second floor council chambers.
“We are trying to encourage as much green-space as possible,” said Parker. “We want to eliminate unnecessary parking spaces and hope that, in the future, you won’t see a big expanse of asphalt without tree islands and green-space. We will have a more attractive and healthy community by doing that.”
Changes to the ordinance will reduce the amount of spaces required for new developments by approximately 50 percent – the amount of parking space required is determined by the size of a site and how often it will be frequented.
According to Mandi Cody, Director of Community Development, minimum required numbers in the current ordinance are excessive and “fail to provide any measurable benefit to the public at large.”
“Our experience with this ordinance over the last few years demonstrated that the ordinance has had pretty excessive requirements that have had a negative impact on development,” she said.
Officials cited large parking lots at K-Mart and the Statesboro Mall as examples of how the ordinance has failed.
The amended ordinance could attract new business, since developers will not have to clear as much land, said Cody – the ordinance would also allow developers use surface materials other than asphalt and concrete, which are the only two materials currently permissible, for parking areas.
In a work session following the meeting, Council discussed proposed revisions to the city’s tree ordinance.
City Engineer Robert Cheshire, along with Henry Clay, Chairman of the Statesboro Tree Board, presented a plan for amending the current ordinance to require a greater diversity and amount of large trees at developed sites.
The regulations would increase the minimum amount of green space required for new developments from 10 to 15 percent, said Cheshire.
“[The changes] are needed because it helps reduce heat, soil erosion, storm water run-off quantity and helps improve air quality,” he said. “I think everyone can buy into that.”
Council will vote on a second reading of the amended parking regulations during its next scheduled meeting. A first reading to amend the tree ordinance could also appear on the upcoming agenda, said Cheshire.
In other business Tuesday, council approved motions to purchase four police-package Chevrolet Tahoes in an amount not to exceed $99,600 and award bid for a fiber optic cable installation to Northland Cable in the amount of $32,967.39.
The new cable will provide a connection from the Statesboro Police Department to City Hall, and allow all internet servers to be stored in a single location, said Parker.
Councilmen were also presented with a draft of a revised version of the city’s alcohol ordinance for review.
The group agreed in August to re-work the ordinance, which they say contains confusing, convoluted and contradictory language.
According to Councilman Will Britt, the city will host a public hearing for citizen input regarding the ordinance between first and second readings approving any changes.
A motion to approve a first reading of the ordinance could appear on council’s agenda at its next meeting.
City Council will next meet Nov. 15 at 6 p.m.
Jeff Harrison can be reached at 912-489-9454