Developer sues BOC
BY ZACH MITCHAM
A Madison County developer filed a federal suit against the board
of commissioners last week, claiming the group illegally thwarted
his plans for an 11-home development on approximately 60 acres
on Double Branch Road.
James Guest seeks "not less than $100,000" in punitive
damages against the commissioners for their actions against his
development. He also asks that all of his attorney's fees be
covered by the defendants and that he be granted any "further
relief (the court) deems just."
Guest's attorney Victor Johnson said that the board's actions
violated Guest's due process and equal protection rights. He
asks the court to declare as void actions against his client
on Oct. 12 of last year and Jan. 11 of this year. The attorney
also says Guest should be awarded a manufactured home or building
permit for the first lot in his proposed development.
"Mr. Guest's interests in his property are jeopardized...based
on the unconstitutional actions taken against (him)," Johnson
wrote in the suit filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court in
County attorney John McArthur said Tuesday he is confident the
county will prove its case in court.
"I intend to defend this vigorously and expect the county
to prevail," said McArthur.
Last year, county zoning administrator Lee Sutton approved Guest's
plans for the development, saying the developer had met all county
guidelines related to the project.
But the commissioners voted last Oct. 11 to overturn Sutton's
approval after a number of neighborhood residents complained
about Guest's plans.
Opponents of the development maintained that Guest's proposed
lots are overly long and narrow. They said the new homes would
hurt wetlands in the area, cause overcrowding and traffic problems,
while lowering property values for surrounding homes.
Hearing reports that Guest had begun work on the development
against the wishes of the board, the commissioners agreed on
Jan. 11 to take "legal action" to stop Guest. They
also voted to restrict lots in the county from being "six
times longer than wide."
Johnson maintains his client should have been notified and a
public hearing scheduled before the board's October vote to overturn
Sutton's approval of Guest's plans. Failure to do so violated
Guest's due process rights, the attorney said.
Likewise, Johnson maintains that the commissioners' action on
regulating lot proportions was against the equal protection rights
of all citizens in Madison County. He contended that any vote
on a zoning restriction should - by law - follow a public hearing.
No hearing was held before the board approved the lot ratio restriction.
act on jail project
BY ZACH MITCHAM
Madison County leaders took the first steps toward constructing
a new jail Monday. However, they cautioned that the proposed
60-bed prison will only be a temporary solution to inmate overcrowding
problems in the county.
The Madison County Board of Commissioners agreed to seek proposals
from businesses interested in providing architectural design
and construction management for a new jail.
Leaders plan to spend about $3 million on the construction project,
with $2.3 million coming from a sales tax approved 18 months
ago by county voters.
While the sales tax money won't cover the entire expense, commission
chairman Wesley Nash said he doesn't expect taxes to be increased
to fund the construction.
But he warned that the commissioners may have to consider such
a move down the road to cover the estimated $500,000 yearly operational
costs of the jail.
The proposed county jail includes an initial layout of 30 two-person
cells. The facility will include approximately 4,000 square feet
of administrative space for the sheriff's department staff and
about 1,200 square feet for the county's E-911 center. The county
also plans kitchen and laundry facilities for the jail.
The prison, which will be built in line with Georgia jail standards,
will be a "pod" or "pie" shaped structure
that will allow for future expansions of up to 300 percent, according
to Nash, who likened the long-term construction to putting in
a few pieces of pie at a time.
"This (the 60-bed jail) is an affordable way to get going,"
Madison County sheriff Clayton Lowe stressed that a 60-bed jail
won't completely solve jail overcrowding in the county.
"I think the people of Madison County ought to know that
if we build 30 two-man cells, that won't be the end of jail problems,"
said Lowe. "A 60-bed jail won't suffice into the future.
It will be full or close to full once it's built."
No site for the jail has been selected, though the county jail
committee recommended putting the prison in a wooded area across
from the recreation department on Hwy. 98. Nash sought a state
Hwy. 72 road-widening
project in full swing
BY FRANK GILLISPIE
All rights of way have been purchased and contracts let on the
first three segments of the Hwy. 72 widening project, according
to Georgia Department of Transportation officials.
Work on the Clarke County segment, running from Hwy. 29 to the
Madison County line, is 27 percent completed, according to Russell
R. McMurry, Assistant Area Engineer for the Athens DOT office.
Work on this section of highway is scheduled to be completed
in the fall of the year 2000.
McMurry said that Garrett Paving is beginning to pave sections
of the new roadbed, and traffic will be switched from side to
side in the near future as work on adjacent lanes and the median
He urged caution by motorists as the work enters this more dangerous
Work on two Hwy. 72 projects in Madison County has begun, according
to Teri Pope, information officer for the Gainesville office
of the Georgia Department of Transportation. These projects,
running from the Clarke County line to Colbert-Danielsville Road,
and from Colbert Danielsville Road to 1,000 feet east of the
intersection with Hwy. 172, are under the management of district
engineer Sandy Moore of DOT's Carnesville office.
Relocation of utilities and clearing of the right of way is rapidly
advancing on both projects, Pope said. She lists the completion
date for both projects as July 2002. Grading and roadbed work
will begin as soon as utilities have been relocated.
Pope released estimated costs for the rebuilding of Hwy. 72 through
Madison County. She lists the cost of the Hull to Colbert segment
as $9.5 million and the Colbert to Hwy. 172 leg as $3.9 million.
The next segment to be built will run from Hwy. 172 to the Comer
city limits. The project is under preliminary engineering and
the exact location of the roadbed has not yet been determined.
Pope said that right of way purchases will begin in fiscal 2002
with construction beginning in 2003. She estimated the cost of
this project to be $6.4 million.
The final project to complete the widening of Hwy. 72, from Comer
to just east of Broad River, is currently listed as a long-range
project. DOT officials describe long- range planning as any project
expected to be undertaken beyond six years in the future. Preliminary
engineering is continuing for this final segment of Hwy. 72 with
plans to start acquiring right of way in fiscal year 2002.
Current estimates are that the final segment of Hwy. 72 will
cost $31,011,000. The combined cost of rebuilding Hwy. 72 in
Madison County will exceed $50 million. Funding and authorization
for the project come from the Governor's Highway Improvement