Developer didn’t get his way: change the zoning code! @ GLPC 2012-11-26

A developer didn’t get his way at the Lowndes County Commission last month, so now the county is proposing to change the zoning code for him! To change zoning right next to Moody Air Force Base, the largest employer in this area. A change opposed by Moody because of flight safety and safety of property, and “the longterm viability of Moody Air Force Base.” A change that would set a precedent for further sprawl, as Moody indicated indirectly when the related rezoning first came before the Planning Commission. Apparently a developer can get whatever he wants around here, no matter how much it threatens the livelihoods or well-being of the rest of the citizens. Does that seem right to you? To their credit, the Planning Commission at its 26 November 2012 meeting unanimously voted against this TEX-2012-02 just as they did the rezoning case REZ-2012-17 last month. Both will be decided by the Lowndes County Commission at its 11 December 2012 meeting.

4. TEX-2012-02

Lowndes County Board of Commissioners
A proposed text amendment to the Unified Land Development Code as it pertains to Single Family residential Density and Minimum Lot Area within the MAZ (Moody Activity Zone)

County Planner Jason Davenport introduced this item.

TEX-2012-02 ULDC changes Ultimately at the end of the day this text amendment is a request to change the minimum lot sizes allowed and the minimum residential densities allowed in a MAZ-3 zoning district. We have those changes highlighted on the screen but they have also been highlighted in the packet…. At the end of the day that is what has happened.

Well, yes, at the end of that day. At the end of many future days this zoning code amendment if approved will be used as a precedent for more sprawl right next to Moody Air Force Base, which is by far the biggest employer in this area. The packet he referred to is not available to the public. The changes he mentioned are not on his Unified Land Development Code (ULDC) web page. A view of them as seen from the back of the room is shown on the right here. Can you read them?

Moody insert in ULDC Map The ULDC map linked on that page includes the Moody Area insert map shown here on the right.

Davenport added that he had received one open records request and a response from Moody. Plus state law requires 30 days for Moody to respond and it had been 31 days. Then he walked through some history using pages in Commissioners’ packets that we the taxpayers, voters, and residents of Lowndes County can’t see.

Davenport specifically tied this text amendment to a tabled zoning case:

We’ve recently had that rezoning request 2012-17 which was for the R-10 zoning district that y’all saw and recommended on last month. At the County Commission level they recommended to table that request. As a response one of the things we learned that the Commission had concerns with the density requirement in this area. As a result this text amendment is a potential way to address that. Basically saying that if you have a more restrictive zoning closer to the base, this zoning can be less restrictive than one acre.

Parcel 0181 001 on Davidson Road None of the County Commission or Planning Commission agendas specified which property REZ-2012-17 was about, but it appears to be the northwest corner of parcel 0181 001, which is 105.86 acres total, plus John Henry Davis owns another 36 acres on the other side of Davidson Road, so that’s at least (105.86 + 36) – 23.49 = 118.37 more acres that one landowner could conceivably claim this rezoning and recoding as a precedent for further development. This proposed rezoning is less than 2500-3000 feet from Moody AFB as Davenport previously noted. You can see for yourself on the map that it’s only a few thousand feet from Moody’s runways. That’s not very far as the jets fly, or sometimes crash. Which is why the MAZ codes exist. If they can be changed for a developer that close to Moody, why do they exist at all?

REZ-2012-17 and MAZ Davenport’s version of history had some curious omissions. At the 29 October 2012 Planning Commission session, nobody spoke for REZ-2012-17 and Moody spoke against: the Planning Commission recommended denial.

At the 12 November 2012 County Commission Work Session, the Chairman, Ashley Paulk, asked the developer to come forward and speak, which he did. The Chairman did not ask anyone else to speak, nor was anyone opposed allowed to speak, if they even knew anybody would be allowed to speak on this rezoning topic, which is very unusual in a Work Session. Is letting one side speak and not the other even legal in an open meeting?

In the 13 November 2012 County Commission Regular Session, Davenport said the developer asked for it to be tabled until the Commission’s December meeting, which the Commission did.

In the November GLPC meeting, Davenport said:

I’ve tried to be very candid in your report; I hope that you would appreciate that.

Do you think he or the Planning Commission or the County Commission has been very candid with the public, you and me, who will be affected by what they are proposing?

Red arrows on MAZ Commissioners had several questions, causing Davenport to elaborate on the red arrows and the MAZ zones. In response to a question about what other communities did about their Air Force bases, such as Warner Robbins, he said he didn’t know, because “it would just take time.” And we just heard him say earlier in this same meeting that they had given Moody 31 days…. What exactly is the rush? Could it have anything to do with the County Commission Chairman’s last meeting being this month?

Nobody spoke for. Moody spoke against. Moody’s position is unchanged: flight safety, property safety, noise, including night-time flying are all issues. This time the Colonel speaking specifically mentioned “the longterm viability of Moody Air Force Base.” That worried at least one Commissioner, Lou McClendon, enough to ask for elaboration. The Colonel responded:

Well, I have to be very careful about my position, and not to speculate on what the Air Force may or may not do in the futre. As I said last time I think we can anticipate a lot of changes in the Air Force with our mission, with funding and budget cuts. And so anything we can do to enhance Moody’s value to military missions is helpful. And I think what this does… it just invites reproaches…. And so overcoming that could potentially be a problem if Moody is ever looked at.

Nobody else spoke against. Commissioner Tommy Willis opened discussion recommending denial. Commissioner John Page noted Moody had been there since World War II and recommended following staff recommendation and recommending denial. He made that a motion. GLPC voted unanimously to recommend denial.

Here is a video playlist of all the Planning Commission and County Commission session items about this rezoning and zoning code change to date. Final action on this zoning code change TEX-2012-02 is scheduled for the Lowndes County Commission at its Regular Session of Tuesday 11 December 2012, with a Work Session on Monday 10 December 2012. There is no agenda posted for either of those yet, but remember last time they tabled the rezoning case REZ-2012-17 to their December session, so that will probably be on the same agenda.