MILTON, Ga. — A longtime Milton business is facing some zoning issues after the city learned that the Ashford Gardeners’ landscaping location had not been “grandfathered” from Fulton County to operate without a special use permit. 

The city has a contract with the company for right of way mowing that was signed July 22.  

Ashford Gardeners was established in 2000 and has been operating out of a 3.5-acre property on Birmingham Highway zoned AG-1, rural residential. 

However, the city learned recently that the business never received a special use permit from Fulton County. The county permitted the landscaping businesses to operate on AG-1 properties in 2002, but Ashford Gardeners never received the permit, the city said. 

“Somewhere around 2013, the city became aware that this business was operating without a use permit and steps were taken to get them into compliance,” a statement from the city said. “For whatever reason, they did not see that to fruition.”

The city added that most of its current staff believed that Ashford was operating as a non-conforming legal use and was “grandfathered” in, but after digging further, the city determined the business was never permitted to operate out of its location. 

Ashford is now seeking its permit and has requested a dozen variances to allow it to operate as it has been. The site falls under the Milton Rural Overlay District. 

In a letter to the city, the company said 12 variances “would seem excessive,” but “all the requests are well-founded.” 

Requests include reducing a setback to allow for the barn on the site to remain in its current location and a request to delete structure setbacks for the site’s storage building and storage areas. Without the permit, Ashford said only 25 percent of the property would be usable. Another variance calls for deleting the requirement for a 50-foot undisturbed buffer and improvement setbacks on the north and south property lines. The company said it is drafting a landscaping plan to improve the look of the site. 

Ashford is also requesting permission to build a 2,400-square foot structure to house its commercial vehicles. Under the current zoning, no more than two commercial vehicles can be parked outside at the site. In the letter to the city, Ashford said the building will be a pole barn. 

Other requests include operations matters, including the allowance of parking, operating hours of 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on weekdays and to allow for a soil composting area to be located at the site.

In its letter, Ashford made its case that the business meets the four requirements the city considers when presented with variance requests and said the company has received no complaints for its site in its 20 years of operation. 

“Failure to grant this use permit and variances destroys a business that has operated since before the city’s inception,” the letter said. “Our intent is to become compliant with the City of Milton’s current rules and regulations as practical and to continue the operation of Ashford Gardeners, Inc. at this location.”

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