Former gov. representing firm suing city
by Megan Thornton
October 26, 2012 01:24 AM | 2402 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WOODSTOCK — Just a month after a heated zoning debate did not go in his client’s favor, former Gov. Roy Barnes has filed suit against the city of Woodstock on behalf of the developer of the city’s Ridgewalk area.

The lawsuit was filed in Cherokee County Superior Court on Wednesday and calls for a zoning ordinance amendment approved at the Sept. 24 council meeting to be declared illegal and that an injunction be granted restraining Woodstock from enforcing the amendment as well as reimbursement of attorney’s fees.

In the suit, Ridgewalk Holdings LLC accuses the city of violating zoning procedures by failing to post the rezoning notice on the affected property, failing to advertise the amendment to the zoning ordinance and not adopting proper policies and procedures to govern hearings on zoning matters.

The lawsuit also states the decision was a violation of due process and equal protection because Barnes was prohibited from fully discussing and presenting his client’s case to the mayor and council at the meeting.

After speaking for several minutes at the Sept. 24 meeting, City Attorney Eldon Basham told Barnes his time was over. Barnes said he wanted it known “for the record” that he was cut off.

Basham said Thursday he had received a copy of the lawsuit but had not yet had a chance to read over it.

“It’s not at all surprising,” Basham said.

Basham said Barnes had previously indicated he would sue on behalf of his client if the city council approved the amendment to the zoning ordinance.

Barnes did not return calls for comment by press time.

At its Sept. 24 meeting, the council voted 4-3 with Mayor Donnie Henriques casting the tie-breaking vote to approve the addition of form-based code into the city’s code of ordinances.

Council members Liz Baxter, Bud Leonard and Chris Casdia voted against the measure, with council members Randy Brewer, Bob Mueller, Tessa Basford voting in support.

The amendment adds a chapter to the city’s land development ordinance relating to form-based code, which does not separate land based on categorical use like traditional zoning. Form-base code addresses appropriate form and scale of development in relation to public spaces

The council also adopted a new official zoning map to change the Ridgewalk area to include form-based code, which was previously zoned as a technology park overlay as the area was originally planned to develop as a technology office park.

City officials began looking at other options for the Ridgewalk area last year after it became clear a technology park was unlikely to develop in the area. Several public input meetings were held to gain insight from residents and business owners about how they wanted the land to develop.

Ridgewalk developers have been consistently vocal in their opposition to the change, claiming the code infringes their rights as landowners.

During the council meeting, Barnes suggested as a resolution to exclude from the new code 12 acres to the south including the under-construction Outlet Shoppes of Atlanta and also exclude 32.5 acres that leaders with Canton-based Watermarke Church have been considering for a potential new facility.

The exclusion would have omitted about 40 percent of the land under consideration, Community Development Director Richard McLeod said during the meeting. It was not considered under the council’s motion.

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