Madison County commissioners spoke at length on a couple of zoning matters Monday, then voted in favor of the applicants, going against the recommendations of the county zoning board.
Commissioners said they didn’t like voting out of line with the zoning board, which recommends actions to the BOC, but they said the planning commission didn’t have all of the information on the matters and that they would like to see more done to get all relevant information into that board’s hands before making recommendations.
In the first matter, commissioners approved a request by Travis Legg for a variance on his 97.28-acre property on Transco Road. Legg plans to have six poultry houses on the property, but a portion of one of the houses doesn’t meet the 300-foot setback requirement from a neighboring property. Legg told the board he met with that property owner who said he was fine with the plan and provided a text to Legg saying so, which Legg showed to the board.
No one spoke against the plans, but the zoning board earlier turned down the request because it didn’t meet the setback requirement.
County code enforcement officer Christopher Roach said that much of the property is unsuitable for poultry houses, and he recommended Legg shift his plans over by 100 feet to provide space between the houses and a ditch that he said constitutes a state waterway. That move led to a setback infringement, but Roach said it saved the county from potential headaches regarding the waterway.
Commissioners noted that the zoning board wasn’t aware of that issue and agreed 4-0 to approve the request, paving the way for six poultry houses.
In a separate matter, the board approved a conditional use permit for Zachery Hightower to expand his poultry spraying business on Neese-Commerce Road near Hwy. 98. The matter has been before commissioners multiple times and the board recently sent the issue back to the zoning board for further consideration. However, Hightower didn’t attend the last zoning board meeting, and the matter wasn’t considered due to his lack of attendance. Zoning chairman Conolus Scott said Hightower’s absence was considered a withdrawal under county regulations and that Hightower would have to wait 60 days to reapply.
Hightower, who was at the meeting Monday, said he wasn’t able to attend the planning meeting because he has been working long hours with his business. The BOC determined that since he had a conditional use permit application, not a rezoning request, the matter could go forward Monday. Scott objected, saying that he felt Hightower should have to face the consequence of not attending the zoning hearing. The board moved forward with a vote on the application and agreed to let Hightower expand his business. Board members noted that Hightower was given bad information from the county zoning office at the time of his application. Commissioner Terry Chandler apologized to Hightower for how the application was handled.
The board approved a request by Terry Scarborough, representing Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, to rezone 1.5 acres with a house from A-2 to R-1 on Diamond Hill Neese Road. The BOC also approved a request by Raul Guerra to rezone his 3.14-acre property on Cliff Griffeth Road from R-R to R-1 so his mother can live there.
In other matters, the board agreed to transfer the old elections office to the county industrial authority, with the condition that the building reverts back to the BOC if the authority ever chooses to find a new office.
Chairman Todd Higdon reported that county EMS was awarded a $27,000 grant that will be used as a one-time pay supplement for full-time public safety officers and first responders.
Madison County has received a $6,000 grant from Association County Commissioners of Georgia for courthouse security.
Higdon said the Rotary Club of Madison County will construct a handicap ramp at the county elections office Oct. 23.
Commissioner Brian Kirk told public works director Alan Lapczynski that the people of Roy Woods Road appreciate the work the road department has done there. And Lapczynski reported that someone has been vandalizing the road on an ATV. Roach said he may have some information on who it is.
The board will soon hold 2022 budget work sessions with department heads. No dates were set Monday.
The board heard from Lapczynski about the upcoming transportation special purpose local option sales tax (TSPLOST) vote. He suggested the county consider contracting with a road assessment and maintenance company to develop a plan to extend the lifespan of county roads.
Lapczynski said cross ties will need to be repaired at HV Chandler Road before the county can repair the road.
The board agreed to renew its commitment to the Northeast Georgia Solid Waste Management Plan. The county transports its waste out of the county from the transfer station off Colbert-Danielsville Road.
The board heard from Lapczynski about potential Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant (LMIG) program. He noted that Neese-Commerce Road needs to be resurfaced, but that would take up nearly the entire LMIG allotment for 2022. Commissioners will review what roads they think should take priority.
Recreation director Shelley Parham presented several potential policy changes at the department related to the scholarship program, background-check policy and special-event policy. She talked about the possibility of using sign sponsorships at the fields to cover scholarship costs for needy kids who want to participate in programs. She also mentioned the possibility of having one uniform vendor for the department.
County commissioners spoke about what to do about private drives in the county, a regular topic at the table for many years. Higdon noted that emergency vehicles need to be able to reach residences on private drives, but they are sometimes damaged in the effort. Residents are encouraged to look at overhanging limbs and other possible impediments to emergency vehicles, such as fire trucks, and clear space for those vehicles.
The commissioners approved a proclamation recognizing October as “National Code Compliance Month.”