LaFayette's decision-makers are considering changes to the city's zoning ordinance that would allow for more pedestrian-friendly, urban-style development in designated areas.

The city council's considerations come after LaFayette officials received a set of recommendations from Southface. The Atlanta-based nonprofit advocates for sustainable development and was invited by local officials to assess the city's ordinances in order to determine how friendly they were to developers.

Drafted in the 1970s, the city's current zoning ordinance was designed to accommodate a growing automotive market when the increase in car ownership had begun to make subdivisions more commonplace, said City Manager David Hamilton.

Today, however, as the area begins to see a shift toward urbanization, the demand for walkability, bikeability and more compact neighborhoods has grown.

"A lot of these recommendations were centered around that general theme," Hamilton said. "There's just been a movement in what people want over the last 30 or 40 years."

Among the recommendations are changes that would enable developers to build housing with smaller lot sizes and smaller setbacks required between properties.

"I think that's where we're going," said Mayor Andy Arnold, adding that his own interest has been piqued by the idea of smaller living accommodations. "Young people today, they're not really big on 'stuff.' They want to live, and a small house is fine for them. They want high-speed internet, they want ... a downtown that they can walk to, and I think we need to be sure that our ordinances allow that."

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LaFayette, Ga., Mayor Andy Arnold announces that the Chattanooga Street Tavern can sell alcohol again pending a May 9 hearing during City Council meeting held Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014.

Councilman Chris Davis agreed, pointing to the older homes in the West LaFayette area, where the lot sizes are smaller, the homes are closer together and residents share community areas.

"That type of development is coming back in style," said Davis, who works as a real estate agent. "But now, with our ordinances the way they are, you couldn't build that today."

Though he also said there is a need for change, Hamilton warned against creating an ordinance that caters to only one type of development, saying he believes it's a "mistake to paint with a broad brush."

"There's certain places where I think the setbacks that we have are probably appropriate, and there are other areas where they're probably not," he said. "I think this is a really good starting point."

City council members will reconvene to discuss the recommendations during an organizational work session set for Jan. 2 at 1 p.m. The meeting is open to the public. No vote is expected to be made on the proposed changes at that time.

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