Neighbors oppose Val Del rezoning @ LCC 2018-10-09

If not consistent with the Comprehensive Plan, nor with the water and sewer growth plan, fire and rescue doesn’t want it, and the Planning Commission recommended rejecting it, what does it take for the Lowndes County Commission to reject a zoning, in this case for REZ-2018-17 for The Settlement North, 5999 Val Del Road?

Five hands go up, REZ-2018-17

Only three people were allowed to speak against, of the five whose hands went up.

The developer promised restrictive covenants enforced by nobody but the homeowners. County-imposed conditions on the Nelson Hill development, also on Val Del, were largely waived by county staff without public hearings. What promises should we believe?

Will the developer’s demand to ignore the Comprehensive Plan because of “market conditions, supply and demand” prevail? Do property values of neighbors not matter? How about saddling the county school system with houses priced too low for property taxes on them to cover expenses of sending school buses? Or is profit for a few all that matters?

See the previous post for background on the Val-Tech Road 16" Force Main Emergency Repair. Another water item was the annual USGS Funding Agreement for Hwy 122 Stream Gauge. EMA Director Ashley Tye gave a thorough update on Hurricane Michael, then still before landfall.

Below are links into the county’s own video of their Regular Session, with some notes. The county also took a video of their Work Session of the previous morning, but it seems those videos never get posted on YouTube. Gretchen has requested that other video, as well.

WORK SESSION, MONDAY, OCTOBER 8, 2018, 8:30 a.m.
327 N. Ashley Street – 2nd Floor

  1. Call to Order
  2. Invocation
  3. Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag
  4. GFOA Financial Reporting Award

    County Manager Joe Pritchard spoke at great length at 1 minute 20 seconds about Finance Director Stephanie Black and her department winning this award for the eleventh year, and he also named Harrison Tillman without saying why.

  5. Minutes for Approval
    1. Work Session- September 24, 2018
    2. Regular Session- September 25, 2018

    At 4 minutes 42 seconds they approved the minutes.

  6. Appointments
    1. Lowndes County Library Board
      Appoint/reappoint a member

      Documents:Lowndes County Library Board.pdf

      Reappointed Linda Most, with no other nominations, by “acclamation”, at 5 minutes 12 seconds.

    2. Lowndes County Public Facilities Authority
      Appoint/reappoint a member

      Documents:Lowndes County Public Facilities Authority.pdf

      Reappointed Clay Griner (also a Lowndes County Commissioner), with no other nominations, by “acclamation”, at 5 minutes 57 seconds, several months late, “because of delays in getting this to you,” since his previous term expired in June.

    3. Valdosta-Lowndes County Construction Board of Adjustments and Appeals
      Appoint/reappoint a member.

      Documents:Valdosta-Lowndes County Construction Board of Adjustments and Appeals.pdf

      Reappointed Jim “Jimbo” Scruggs, with no other nominations, by “acclamation”, at 7 minutes 12 seconds.

  7. Public Hearing
    1. REZ-2018-17 The Settlement North, 5999 Val Del Road, E-A to R-1, Well & Septic, ~98.95 acres
      TRC Recommendations: Various
      GLPC Recommendation: Denial

      Documents:Rezoning Case REZ-2018-17.pdf

      At 8 minutes 2 seconds, Commissioner Demarcus Marshall noted that none of Engineering, Utilities, and Fire and Rescue recommended rezoning, and got Planner Molly Stevenson to acknowledge that Planning and Zoning found the request “inconsistent with the Comprehensive Plan”. Commissioner Mark Wisenbaker got her to say “Utilities found the development in that area is not supported by the county water system growth plan.” The agenda sheet also notes the Planning Commission recommended denial; see Planning commission denies Val-Del Road recommendation, by Jason A. Smith, Valdosta Daily Times, 25 September 2018.

      Current Zoning Map, REZ-2018-17

      County Manager Joe Pritchard tried to rationalize all that, saying the departments that meet in the Technical Review Committee “do not necessarily vote to approve or to support this, they merely indicate whether there is a problem, as Molly was saying, with the particular project that was presented, based on whatever their particular area is, for instance the Comp. Plan, whether there was access to water, if there was some engineering issues, etc. So their input into this is not to either support this, or to oppose it, merely to indicate a problem that they see based on their criteria.

      At 10 minutes 45 seconds five hands went up for speakers against the rezoning.

      Chuck Dunham of 5930 Val Del Road noted zoning considers eleven standards, and “not one of these is not negatively impacted by this zoning request.” His three specific concerns were:

      1. This development would depress the property values of himself and his neighbors.
      2. Storm water, even with a retention pond, could overflow in a storm bigger than the state requirement of dealing with a 25-year storm. In his 22 years next door, he has seen the only ditch from the subject property full several times, going onto his property. He said the hydrology study should be done first. For example, the county hasn’t taken into account that a 42-inch overflow pipe coming onto his property would feed into a 36-inch pipe going out. The county frequently has to put up water over the road signs on the dirt road.
      3. Traffic. He referred to “the military housing” at least a mile from there on Val Del Road, presumably referring to the Moody Family Housing with sinkholes and in an aquifer recharge zone that the county approved in 2013. He also called Val Del Road “the Val Del 500” because people gun it to try to pass before they get to the top of the hill. Also not if but when they need to three-lane the two-lane road, how will they do that?


      At 15 minutes 48 seconds, County Chairman Bill Slaughter gave more evidence that county time limits for citizens speaking are arbitrary when he said,

      We typically give each side five minutes, but I’ll allow two additional speakers, this speaker and one more.

      Paul Lane of 5970 Val Del Road, right across the road from the potential development, said it would “pretty much defeat the reason I moved out there” and it was “completely out of character” for the area.

      At 17 minutes 25 seconds, Linda Mehr of 5909 Val Del Road, “right next to this property,” goes to get her dogs next to her pond next to the subject property, and her truck sunk, needing towing to get it out. Also she said she loses 2 of her 10 acres in water so it can’t be used, and she has no idea “how you could ever accomplish something like this.” She said she had “a visitor, Mr. Langdale, not a very kind visitor, but if you want to go that way… maybe you should go back there and take a walk. Wear your boots.”

      At 19 minutes 20 seconds, Tom Call of 1108 Gornto Road spoke for the development, mostly the “not in my back yard mentality” of the speakers against, claiming their complaints were not quantifiable. He ignored the basic points that paving would cause more runoff, and no matter the size of the retention pond, it would probably overflow in a big rain. He claimed Val Del Road was built as a major collector because that’s what the county thoroughfare plan says. He claimed it would be low density development at 68 houses on 100 acres for 1.47 acres per house. He praised the Comprehensive Plan and then advocated abrogating it because of “market conditions, supply and demand”.

      The county’s current road classifications are not evidence for the original purpose of a road. Maybe Val Del Road was reclassified upwards during the county’s blanket reclassification of roads in 2010, or maybe during their update of the Thoroughfare Plan this April.

      Lowndes County Road Map
      Lowndes County Road Map in April 2018 revision of Thoroughfare Plan.

      Nevermind there is no similar development nearby, even if there may be undeveloped R-1 zoning next to it. And, yes, literally, this development would be in the opposition speakers’ back yards, or across from their front yards. If they’re not concerned about their back yards, who should be? Maybe the county should represent them?

      I’m concerned, because that development would cause more traffic on GA 122 cutting through Hambrick Road, making it even more dangerous to turn out of Quarterman Road from my house.

      At 24 minutes 20 seconds Commissioner Scottie Orenstein asked about Mr. Dunham’s concern about “our values would obviously go down” and asked Tom Call what he expects the lot prices to be. Before answering the question, Call offered for Dunham to buy the property since it was for sale. His answer: $200 to $250,000 homes in a restrictive covenant community about house plans, colors, etc. He said “it’s homeowner maintained”.

      Homeowner maintained means no enforcement. The Nelson Hill development, also on Val Del, which the county approved outside where water and sewer then ran, had numerous requirements in its plan as approved by the County Commission, and detailed in its minutes for its 12 February 2007 Work Session and 13 February 2007 Regular Session. The county no longer has either of those minutes on its website, but fortunately LAKE quoted the relevant parts in a blog post. LAKE also obtained a copy of the county’s Notice of Decision through open records request and saved that, too:

      A few years later, county staff waived several conditions without going back through a public hearing. There were supposed to be condominiums and a gated community at Nelson Hill, but if you go look now you will find none of that, nor any houses of the originally-required sizes, nor several other of the original conditions.

      $250,000 is not enough for a house price, according to a report Lowndes County paid for, 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:

      While the county government breaks-even on a $128,600 house, they are just one government entity in the county. From the county school system perspective, the results are quite different. If a home contains just one child attending the public schools, the break-even home value is $313,900 for the county schools and $419,000 for the Valdosta schools from the point of view of the schools’ budget (that is the home value that would pay enough in local school property taxes to cover the local expenditures per pupil).. Thus, the county government will be earning a fiscal surplus off a house with a single child long before the schools. With two children in school, the break-even home price increases to $622,800 for the Lowndes County Schools and $833,100 for the Valdosta City Schools. Census data provides an estimate of 0.6 public schoolchildren per home in Lowndes County. The break-even value for homes for the school system using an average of 0.6 pupils per household is $193,300 for the County Schools and $253,400 for the Valdosta Schools. This is near the average value of new houses being constructed in Lowndes County (recently estimated to be in the range of $220,000). Thus, Lowndes County is in the enviable situation of its new growth being approximately fiscally neutral for the local school systems. The danger would be if new residents had a higher number of public school children per household than the current population. Given the reputation of the Lowndes County Schools in the region, this is a legitimate concern.

      Commissioner Clay Griner asked if the owner would consider 1.75 acre lots. Call said he’d have to ask and get another plan drawn up.

      Commissioner Demarcus Marshall asked if Call had said it was for sale. Call said it’s been for sale for a year, with a big sign up.

      Comissioner Marshall wanted to know the lot size on the nearby R-1 property. Answer: minimum 1 acre lots on Dana Circle.

      At 27 minutes 30 seconds, when the Chairman asked for any other speakers in support, Linda Mehr stood up again and said, “I think we are all in favor of 10 acre lots.” The Chairman said that was not the request. She said it was her request, and she thought all the neighbors would be in favor. The Chairman said thank you and she sat down.

      At 27 minutes 53 seconds, Commissioner Orenstein said he wanted to pursue what Commissioner Griner asked about lot size.

      At 30 minutes, they called Tom Call back up to see if he would consider that. He said yes.

      The Chairman did not call any of the opposition back up to see if they were OK, with that, despite a Commissioner having already noted that they didn’t know about that.

      Instead, before Call could even sit down, at 30 minutes 27 seconds, somebody made a motion and Commissioner Joyce Evans seconded. They all raised their hands in favor of tabling for a month. So we’ll see it again in the first meeting in November.


    2. Abandonment of a Portion of Union Road
      Board’s Pleasure

      Documents:Abandonment of a Portion of Union Road.pdf

      At 30 minutes 47 seconds, after a pause to let people leave from the previous item, led by the VDT reporter, County Engineer Mike Fletcher presented the proposed abandonment, nobody wanted to speak for or against, and they approved it.

  8. For Consideration
    1. Union Road Quit Claim Deeds
      Approve and authorize Chairman Slaughter to execute Quit Claim Deeds.

      Documents:Union Road Quit Claim Deeds.pdf

      At 30 minutes 47 seconds they approved it.

    2. USGS Funding Agreement for Hwy 122 Stream Gauge
      Request authorization for the Chairman to execute the funding agreement to allow for continued maintenance of the current stream gauge on the Little River.

      Documents:USGS Funding Agreement for Hwy 122 Stream Gauge.pdf

      At 33 minutes 45 seconds Ashley Tye presented this annual reapproval, Commissioner Demarcus Marshall made the motion, Commissioner Scottie Orenstien seconded, and they all voted aye.

    3. Stone Creek Antenna Space License Agreement Termination
      Termination of agreement

      Documents:Stone Creek Antenna Space License Agreement Termination.pdf

      At 34 minutes 52 seconds Utilities Director Steve Stalvey presented, Commissioner Marshall moved, somebody seconded, and they all approved.

    4. Val-Tech Road 16" Force Main Emergency Repair
      Approval of Emergency Repair

      Documents:Val-Tech Road 16 Force Main Emergency Repair.pdf

      At 35 minutes 45 seconds Utilities Director Steve Stalvey presented this request to repair the repeatedly leaking and once-again-cracked sewer main for $99,935. They all voted aye.

  9. Reports – County Manager

    At 36 minutes 6 seconds County Manager Joe Pritchard said EMA Director Ashley Tye gave a Hurricane Matthew update the previous day, and asked him to provide an update. The update was basically that the hurricane was still expected to make landfall a bit west of Panama City, with windspeeds of 120 miles per hour, as a category 3, with “devastating impacts, especially along the coastline.” Lowndes County was still under a tropical storm warning, with “significant impacts” from winds of at least 39 miles per hour, with a 20% chance of hurricane winds of 74 mph. He gave a very thorough summary, including that Moody AFB was already closed down, indicating the potential severity of the storm.

  10. Citizens Wishing to be Heard-Please State Your Name and Address

    Apparently there weren’t any, since the Chairman didn’t mention this item.

  11. Adjournment

    Despite a Commissioner already making a motion to adjourn at 53 minutes 27 seconds, the Chairman ignored Roberts Rules and took time to point at Leadership Lowndes. Finally they adjourned at 53 minutes 45 seconds, making this the longest Lowndes County Commission meeting in recent memory.


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