A citizens committee that was appointed a few months ago by the Barrow County Board of Commissioners to review the county’s zoning regulations voted July 7 to recommend that the minimum sizes of new houses be reduced by hundreds of square feet.

The Unified Development Code since 2005 has required that all new homes built in Barrow County have at least 1,600 square feet of heated floor space. The committee voted to recommend instead that the minimum size of single-story homes be 1,200 square feet, and the minimum size of two-story homes be 1,400 square feet.

The vote on single-story homes was 5-2, with Bill Healan and John Chaney voting no. The vote on two-story homes was 6-1, with Healan casting the only vote against the motion.

Healan, a former county attorney and member of the BOC, is the chairman of the committee. He warned the other members that the BOC likely would not agree to such significant reductions in home sizes. The BOC will make the final decision on whether to change the UDC.

But with two of the appointees of district commissioners absent – including the appointee of District 6 Commissioner Ben Hendrix, who suggested the creation of the committee – Healan was clearly outnumbered by members with ties to development. They argued that something has to be done to get people in the construction industry back to work. The primary industry in Barrow County prior to the start of the recession in 2008 was the building industry.

The committee did agree to include in its recommendation that with the smaller house sizes, the county tighten the building codes to make sure the homes are of better quality than many of the 1,600-square-foot homes built during the county’s building boom a few years ago.

Voting in favor of the reduced house sizes were:

• Joe Goodman, who is the chairman of the Planning Commission and the appointee of District 1 Commissioner Larry Joe Wilburn;

• Jon Greeson, a major commercial property owner and the appointee of District 2 Commissioner Eva Elder;

• Jerry Maynard of Maynard & Bartlett Realty Group, who was appointed by BOC chairman Danny Yearwood;

• Danny Rampey, a businessman representing the Barrow County Chamber of Commerce;

• and Tripp Lanthier, an owner of Winder Barrow Realty.

Healan is the appointee of District 3 Commissioner Steve Worley, and Chaney is the appointee of District 4 Commissioner Isaiah Berry.

Absent for the vote were Charles Sewell, the appointee of District 5 Commissioner Billy Parks; Rick Mathews, the appointee of Hendrix; and Tony Trusty, president of the Barrow County Builders Association.

The committee also voted to recommend that sidewalks be required only in residential developments with at least 35 homes. Currently the UDC requires sidewalks in neighborhoods with 24 homes.

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