Follow the law and be aware what the citizens want –Judge Ellerbee @ Lake Park 2014-04-28

Apartments are expensive to local governments, developers don’t sue unless there is actual discrimination (which there isn’t in this case), water use is a big issue, and the primary responsibility of elected officials is to the citizens who elect them: Judge Wayne Ellerbee made these and other points relevant to many rezoning requests as he spoke for some of the opponents at the Lake Park Brookhaven rezoning.

He pointing out that the question before the Lake Park City Council was the rezoning, but the developers needed to take into account the effects on the entire city of Lake Park. He mentioned studies from the University of Georgia saying that the most expensive zoning for a local government is residential: for each dollar you can collect from this apartment project it will cost more than a dollar in services provided by the city.

See The Local Government Fiscal Impacts of Land Use in Lowndes County: Revenue and Expenditure Streams by Land Use Category, by Jeffrey H. Dorfman, Ph.D. Dorfman Consulting, December 2007, and also another Dr. Dorfman presentation, The Economics of Growth, Sprawl and Land Use Decisions, which notes:

Using results compiled by AFT, the national averages are:
  • Residential: $0.87
  • Commercial/Industrial: $3.45
  • Farmland/Forestland/Open Space: $2.70
These figures are of revenue for each $1 of expenditures.

The Judge even addressed the big bugaboo of local governments:

Before I got involved the proponents of wanting the rezoning done passed out a letter about you’re going to get sued if you don’t let them have what they want. That’s not true. The only time you get sued is when you rule in a discriminatory manner. Now whether you leave it at CC or you change it to R-6 doesn’t deal with anything, or shouldn’t deal with anything other than what’s best for the city and what does the demand call for.

Then he asked, “Who is making the application for the rezoning?” He recounted four or five names he’d heard. He said he discovered one of those names was associated with some apartments in Hahira, whose condition he described as “deplorable” as he passed out pictures of them. He said he had asked through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request (presumably he mean Open Records Request) for the documents submitted to the city of Lake Park to request the zoning. In what he got back there was no letter from the owner as the applicant, so the application did not meet the letter of what was required.

He brought up water and drainage, and said all the people wanted them to leave that just like it is. He got loud applause for that.

He then ticked off the points he just made in summary form, including the applicants hadn’t filed a proper application, and the Planning Commission had voted against it. He expanding on the water point, about pollution from oil and asphalt and other runoff.

And he expanded on the ongoing rezoning expense question:

It’s going to cost the City of Lake Park to change to give them the opportunity to make the money. And that’s what doesn’t make sense to me. Why should the citizens of Lake Park pay to reduce the expenses of someone to make a profitable project out of this for themselves.


And I’ve been told that the Mayor and Council feels like their primary responsibility is to the citizens. Which is true. They’re the ones that elect you. They’re the ones that put you there. They are the ones that depend on you to do the right thing.

He said the opponents had a petition that night signed by 112 registered voters.

That’s 112 people that have the ability to vote that are telling you we don’t want what these people want to bring in here.

And he addressed the applicants’ lawyers allegation that they had a right to do what they wanted to do, based on a ruling from Pooler. I’m guessing that was USA v. Pooler, 2002, which was settled by the city of Pooler, GA in the summer of 2003. Judge Ellerbee said that decision had nothing to do with this one, since that one was about discrimination, and this one was about economic and other reasons for why this development didn’t belong where the applicants proposed it to be.

He concluded that he hadn’t seen anything that fully complied

Look at what your responsibility is, is to follow that law.

And, I think, to be aware of what the citizens of Lake Park want, and don’t want.

That got possibly the biggest aplause of the night. Maybe other elected officials should follow the law, and also be aware of what the citizens want.

Here’s the video:

Follow the law and be aware what the citizens want –Judge Ellerbee
Rezoning Public Hearing, Lake Park City Council (Lake Park),
Video by Gretchen Quarterman for Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange (LAKE),
Lake Park, Lowndes County, Georgia, 28 April 2014.