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Hartselle seeks to redefine family to change zoning law

By Deangelo McDaniel · 340-2469

HARTSELLE — What is a family? A section in Hartselle’s zoning ordinance says a family is “any number of individuals living together as a single housekeeping unit and doing their cooking on the premises.”

“By that definition, I know a lot of families that would not be families because they eat out all the time,” David Woods of Edgewood Street said.

For almost six months, Woods had tried to get the City Council to change the definition of a single-family residency in its zoning ordinance.

Currently, he argues, nothing in the city’s ordinance controls how many people may occupy a home.

“It boils down to this: You need to define what a family is,” he said.

Not so fast, city leaders say.

They concede Hartselle’s current definition is archaic and probably needs revising. But state law, City Attorney Larry Madison said, is not clear on what a family is. “If this is what the council wants to do, it’s going to take some time,” Madison said.

The council instructed him to look at revising the zoning ordinance.

Mayor Dwight Tankersley said he’s not going to recommend an ordinance change that attempts to say how adults can be related.

“How could we enforce something like this?” he asked. “I’m not going to recommend something that will get the city sued.”

Woods said he’s not having problems with anyone living near him, but wants to eliminate potential problems.

He said there are legal means in place to control apartment occupancy, but nothing for single-family homes.

“I want to eliminate the potential degradation of neighborhoods,” Woods said. “It’s better to be proactive.

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