Nelson Hill waivers by staff @ LCC 2013-08-13

Before tonight’s vote on Moody Housing on Val Del Road, maybe somebody should review these administrative waivers from county staff for Nelson Hill, one for the minimum lot size, and the other for setbacks for the lots along the “lake”. I haven’t yet found who waived the requirement for condominiums, or for their fronts to be staggered, or for them to be at least 1800 square feet, or the traffic calming measures, or how all this fits the submitted site plans, nor for that matter what happened to the gate or guards or the road connecting to Grove Point. Maybe you can find those things in the materials about Nelson Hill received in response to an Open Records Request. If staff can waive all these things without any of them coming up again for a vote before the elected Commission in a public hearing, why do we have the elected Commissioners vote in the first place?

Here’s a waiver for lot setbacks next to the pond by Joe Pritchard “In my official capacity as County Manager”, 22 September 2009, for AAW-2009-06.

Here’s a waiver for minimum lot sizes by Jason Davenport, County Planner, 18 July 2011, for AAW-2011-16:

Good afternoon. Based on recent questions from multiple parties regarding Nelson Hill we thought it best to respond in writing to all. For us the question is “Will the County require a minimum lot size in Nelson Hill?” and our answer is No. Lowndes County will not prohibit someone from reducing the minimum lot size. At a minimum, we will require that the subdivision plats be updated to reflect the new lot size and that the various notes and organization of the new plats be consistent with the previously approved preliminary and final plats. However, should the option to reduce the sizes of the lots be chosen, we do note the following other impacts to consider before pursuing that particular direction:

1. Other notes on the plats will need to be modified (e.g. Land Use Chart – Greenspace/Residential, Lake Space Note, Minimum Lot Area Note, Minimum Lot Width Note, etc.)

2. We have concerns over the resulting developable area if the lots are reduced (e.g. Setbacks & Utility Connections). Please note that further modifications along these lines may trigger a PD Amendment.

Otherwise, from a staff standpoint, know that with the seemingly new direction and expectations of Nelson Hill we would recommend a PD amendment. In closing, it is our hope that this interpretation will be useful moving forward and as a result we will identify that, if necessary, it is subject to appeal (ULDC Section 10.04.00).

Now, this isn’t about Jason Davenport, who was most helpful in compiling all these materials for my recent Open Records Requests. It’s about the county government’s culture of making concessions to developers that the public never gets to see without filing an Open Records Request. Or, in this case, reading the Minutes from 2007 and driving by Nelson Hill to compare. Do all these changes without any public review by elected Commissioners seem right to you?

And if this kind of thing happened in the neighborhood of the proposed Moody Family Housing development on Val Del Road, how do we know things like this won’t happen for that development, too?

Lawyers for the new proposed development can try to sweep under the rug as “a long time ago” or as “the unfortunate issue that took place with the prior development”. At least Magnolia Grove is hidden away back from Bemiss Road over by the base. But Nelson Hill is right there on Val Del Road where everyone can see. And now you have some idea of what happened at Nelson Hill.

Do we want another Magnolia Grove or Nelson Hill? If not, maybe we can get something better as assurances from the County Commission and staff for Moody Family Housing than we got for those previous two developments.

Oh, and those Open Records Requests Gretchen filed after yesterday morning’s Work Session have not been completed by the county, while it’s only a few hours before the voting Regular Session. So you won’t know what’s in those 30 pages of updates on Moody Family Housing or what’s being changed in SPLOST or what’s in the SPLOST VII lists the county is likely to approve tonight.

It’s the county way!

But should it be?