500-900 Unit Mobile Home Park Proposed
The Commerce Planning Commission tabled for a month action on a zoning request that could result in the construction of a mobile home park with from 500 to 910 trailers on rental lots.
After a lengthy discussion Monday night, the panel voted to delay action on the request of Larry Bramlett pending negotiations between Bramlett and city officials on possible modifications to his plan for a 121-acre mobile home park on U.S. 441 north, across from Ashworth Mobile Home Park.
Bramlett's attorney, John Lindsay, basically presented the planning commission with two options. One was to approve the R-5 zoning and negotiate with Bramlett over layout, density and other changes in the park to make it less objectionable to the city. The other choice was to deny the rezoning request and take a chance that a judge would rule Bramlett had a right to develop the park - with up to 910 mobile homes - under the old zoning ordinance.
Lindsay has filed with the city a "constitutional" challenge. Bramlett's property was at one time zoned R-4, which then allowed mobile homes and at a much greater density than the current zoning ordinance allows. When Commerce adopted a new zoning ordinance in 1995, Bramlett's land was classified as AR ­ in which mobile homes are not allowed. Lindsay claims that the city failed to provide proper notice of the change, a charge the city denies.
Should Bramlett and Lindsay prevail in court, the city could be faced with the prospect of a mammoth mobile home park. Averaging four people per unit, the mobile home park alone could cause a 40 percent jump in the city's population, creating problems for law enforcement, fire protection, the schools and severely taxing the city's ability to provide sewer service.
Lindsay made no effort to try to sell the panel on mobile home parks, although twice he stated that "If there is such a property ideally suited for a mobile home park, this is it."
The property, he noted, has major highways front and back, is adjacent to commercial property, two mobile home parks, a cemetery and the city's closed landfill.
"Our position is we have the legal right to develop this property by the old R-4," Lindsay told the panel. "But we're not stuck on that."
He told the planning commission he and Bramlett were "open to any suggestions" and were not threatening litigation. He pointed out that a sewer line runs through the land and water is on the highway. "As far as I know, all the utilities we would need are available at the site," he said.
There was some confusion over access to the property from the back side, the Commerce bypass. Lindsay indicated that the Department of Transportation promised access, and Billy Vandiver, chairman of the planning commission, suggested that the group could not make a "decent decision" on the issue without knowing for sure that such access would be granted.
The planning commission had letters from Larry White, school superintendent; the Commerce Fire Department; George Grimes, police chief, and others stating that the demands placed by a large mobile home park would adversely affect city operations.
Potential neighbors also expressed opposition to the project.
Nathan Miller, 964 Homer Road, pointed out that he already has two mobile home parks as neighbors. "The last thing I need is one in my back yard," he said.
Amy Miller of the same address noted that there are "always problems" in Ashworth Mobile Home Park across old U.S. 441, and added her voice to the opposition.
Mike Aaron, 1009 Homer Road, also complained about the possibility of having another trailer park nearby. "Why can't he come in there and build houses ... anything besides a trailer park."
In fact, Lindsay offered to allow commercial or industrial development along the road in front of the facility, and professed a willingness to negotiate any aspect of the project ­ as long as mobile homes are permitted.
"If we can agree on something, we can work to make this a lot easier for the city of Commerce," he declared.
Finally, the panel voted to table the decision to give Lindsay and Bramlett time to meet with City Manager Clarence Bryant to perhaps negotiate something more palatable to the city.



A New Beginning
The 1999-2000 school year started last Friday in the Commerce and Jackson County school systems. A Commerce Elementary School youngster heads for class on the first day, one of more than 1,176 students who had enrolled as of Monday.


70% Of SPLOST Would Go For Water, Sewerage
JEFFERSON -- As expected, voters will be asked in November to pass a special purpose local option sales tax for water and sewer, roads and recreation improvements and to build a training facility for the volunteer fire departments.
These areas had been discussed at numerous meetings, but it didn't become official until the Jackson County Board of Commissioners set the SPLOST formula at a called meeting Friday morning. The vote will be Nov. 2.
The breakdown for the revenue is as follows: 70 percent for water and sewer; 23 percent for roads; 5.5 percent for recreation (which also includes land for parks and park renovations); and 1.5 percent for a fire training facility.
Earlier plans were to include a new courthouse as part of the SPLOST vote, but the courthouse committee sent the board of commissioners a letter asking that it be funded through other sources.
"This has been the hardest thing we've had to do in quite some time," commissioner Henry Robinson said in making a motion on the formula. "Everybody wants more, and we just can't give everybody what they want. It's just impossible. We've tried to do the best we can."
Commissioner Pat Bell said she is also pleased with the formula.
"I feel real strongly about this formula," she said. "I think it's a good one. I think our basic need is for water in this county. We've given a major part of that to water. I feel real strongly about roads. We get 75 cents back on each dollar (from the state)."
Chairman Jerry Waddell also voted in favor of the formula.
"It may not be all you want, but it's a start," he said. "It's a struggle for us to try and divide this money. If someone is unhappy about it and they don't get out and work for it, all of us lose ... We're all going to get out and work to pass it."
The water and sewer, roads and recreation funds will be divided among the county and all towns based on population.
"I feel real strongly about the recreation part of that money being used to set aside green spaces for parks down the road," Bell said. "If we don't go ahead and start identifying some of these key areas in our county to set aside for future parks, we aren't going to have any to set aside."
As for the funds for the fire departments, it will be used to construct a "burn building." The fire department leaders had also asked for funds for classrooms for training. Robinson said that when the new courthouse is built, space will be available in the Administrative Building for that purpose.

County Budget Up, But Tax Rate Should Go Down
JEFFERSON -- Growth in the tax digest is expected to cover the increase in next year's county budget, which means property owners most likely won't see a tax hike.
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners approved a preliminary 7.57 mill rate for unincorporated areas and an 8.90 mill rate for incorporated areas in a called meeting Friday morning. Both rates are down slightly from the 1998 millage rates.
The preliminary budget was approved at $14.5 million, which is up $1.5 million over the 1999 budget.
A public hearing on the millage rate and budget will be held when the board of commissioners meets at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 2, at the Jackson County Administrative Building auditorium in Jefferson. Copies of the budget are available at the commissioner's office.
In addition to the fund for general operations, the county approved a $1.5 million special revenue budget. This includes revenue from the E-911 system, jail, transportation system, law library, drug enforcement, fire districts and senior center.
The county also approved $4.7 million for capital projects and $926,717 in a special "enterprise fund" for the landfill.

City Lifts Water Restrictions
Thanks to Monday night showers from what's left of Hurricane Bret, the city of Commerce has lifted its restrictions on outside water use.
Showers dumped more than an inch of rain citywide Monday night and early Tuesday morning, the first general rain the city's had in more than a month.
The restrictions, in place about a month, limited watering of yards, gardens and other outside use of water after 4 p.m. daily.
"The restrictions are lifted, but we will continue to monitor the situation," said City Clerk Shirley Willis. "If we get in trouble again, we will re-impose them."

For the second time, the Commerce Planning Commission has recommended that the city council approve a planned unit development of houses and condominiums off the Mount Olive Road. See printed edition for more.

'Inside Job?'
The Commerce Police Department says a clerk at a local convenience store who recently reported that a man stole a night deposit bag from her actually was a participant in stealing the bag. She and an alleged accomplice have been arrested.
See printed edition for more.

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