Category Archives: Agriculture

Secrecy of Lowndes County Commission and Staff

Update 2022-02-06: Board’s Pleasure should be Deny: Miller Bridge Road rezoning @ LCC 2022-02-07.

It’s almost enough to make you wonder why the Lowndes County Commission does not want the public to know what it is doing?

A state-funded road restriping with the list of roads not revealed to the public for three months, and no minutes for the relevant meetings on the Lowndes County website (but LAKE kept a copy from their old website).

A petition with 300 signatures the County Planner just took out of the board packet so even County Commissioners did not see it.

Two board packets (for Planning and County Commission meetings) not returned for more than the statutory three days, and then one of them only partial.

No board packets on the county’s website, even though other counties larger and smaller in Georgia and Florida have been doing that for years.

No minutes (except one) before 2014, or maybe some hidden. Not even any agendas before 2012.

[Lowndes County Agenda Center for 2013]
Lowndes County Agenda Center for 2013

County Commission staff do take videos of the Commission meetings, but they only post videos of the Regular Session (not the Work Session), and not even those between October 2020 and October 2021. This is despite spending more than $100,000 for new audio visual equipment for the Commission Chambers, while the Valdosta City Council has livestreamed through the pandemic using an employee’s iPhone.

I could go on about the stealth reapportionment of Commission Districts and the half million dollar bailout of a developer, both at the same January 25, 2022, Lowndes County Commission meeting, both not revealed to the taxpaying public before the voting Regular Session.

But just items related to the Miller Bridge Road rezoning requests are enough to raise questions about the secrecy of Lowndes County Commission and staff.

Why don’t they want the public and the taxpayers to know?

What don’t they want us to know?

Road Striping

Continue reading

Packet: Staff says growth over agriculture and forestry for Miller Bridge R-A Rezoning @ GLPC 2022-01-31

Update 2022-01-31: Dasher packet item: 10 minutes from SGRC vs. too many days from Lowndes County @ GLPC 2022-01-31.

Lowndes County staff says “existing development pattern and growth of the community” is more important than agriculture and forestry for 6. REZ-2022-03 Windy Hill Subdivision, 7532 Miller Bridge Rd., 0010 022, ~34 ac., E-A to R-A on the agenda for the Monday, January 31, 2022, meeting of the Greater Lowndes Planning Commission. Nevermind the surrounding community overwhelmingly opposes this rezoning and it is the Lowndes County Commission (and the Chamber and others) causing this “pattern and growth” heading north into places it should not go and that the county will never be able to collect enough property taxes to support school buses, fire trucks, and Sheriff calls.

Also, they’ve found one R-1 lot nearby and apparently the Rural Residential Character Area on Morven Road counts heavily as “proximity to the Rural Residential Character Area”. And they’ve ignored numerous requirements of the Comprehensive Plan for for the Agriculture/Forestry/Conservation Character Area, as well as what used to be a hard-no county road safety requirement.

In case you had any doubt, this rezoning is not just about this case, it is about the “precedent set by this case for other similarly sized and located properties in Lowndes County.”

[REZ-2022-03: Miller Bridge Road, E-A to -RA]
REZ-2022-03: Miller Bridge Road, E-A to -RA

Here is the main text of the agenda sheet for this rezoning. I have boldfaced certain phrases and interleaved the relevant maps from the board packet.

HISTORY, FACTS AND ISSUES: Continue reading

Videos: Comprehensive Plan Update Public Hearing 2 @ LCC 2021-10-26

Only one citizen showed up to speak: David Houtz, who asked Commissioners not to change the Character Area Maps, and said he had not seen the latest plan. SGRC’s Elizabeth Backe handed him a copy; she also presented a summary of the process at the beginning of the meeting, and clarified process later.

[Citizen David Houtz, Elizabeth Backe of SGRC, Houtz receives plan, Sparse audience, City Planner Matt Martin, Commissioners Orenstein and Marshall, Commissioners and VDT reporter]
Citizen David Houtz, Elizabeth Backe of SGRC, Houtz receives plan, Sparse audience, City Planner Matt Martin, Commissioners Orenstein and Marshall, Commissioners and VDT reporter

You can see in this LAKE video a discussion between Valdosta and Hahira City Planner Matt Martin and Lowndes County Commissioner Scottie Orenstein about changes to the Hahira Character Area map is not recorded in the minutes, as well as the rest of the 17-minute meeting.

Commissioners discussed the Comprehensive Plan Update again this morning in their Work Session, and they will approve it tomorrow afternoon at 5:30 PM in their Regular Session. Continue reading

Videos: River gauges, Lowndes County Extension Office @ LCC Work 2021-10-25

By far the longest item was the informative 7.a. Lowndes County Extension Office Presentation, at the Lownndes County Commission Work Session yesterday morning.

[River Gauges, Beer and Wine, Reports, Extension Agent]
River Gauges, Beer and Wine, Reports, Extension Agent

The river gauges and the beer and wine license took not much longer than to read the agenda items.

Below are links to each LAKE video of each agenda item, with a few notes, followed by a LAKE video playlist. See also the agenda and board packet, received in response to a LAKE open records request and on the LAKE website. Continue reading

FFA, Appointments, Liquor, Rezonings, Roads, Forestry, DUI, Holidays, Insurance, Calendar, Trucks @ LCC 2020-12-07

Update 2020-12-15: Board packet is on the LAKE website.

A million and a half dollars, mostly for insurance, on the agenda for the final Lowndes County Commission session of 2020, and that’s not counting the many-years-long ramifications of rezoning for new subdivisions and acquiring right of way for a new road.

[Rezonings: REZ-2020-17 3833 Inner Perimeter Road; REZ-2020-19 3435 Bemiss Knights Academy; REZ-2020-20 6712 Clyattstone Road]
Rezonings: REZ-2020-17 3833 Inner Perimeter Road; REZ-2020-19 3435 Bemiss Knights Academy; REZ-2020-20 6712 Clyattstone Road

Cost What
$1,240,297.002021 Stop Loss Insurance Coverage Renewal Through Symetra Life Ins. Company
$174,759.002021 ACCG Workers’ Compensation Insurance Renewal
$60,862.00Bid for 2 – Three Quarter Ton Trucks for the Engineering Department
$27,367.00Bid for a Sport Utility Vehicle for the 911 Center
$920.50 Georgia Forestry Commission Services [LAS prescribed burns] Agreement
$381.00Office of the Governor Criminal Justice Coordinating Council Accountability Court Lowndes County DUI Court- State Court
$1,504,586.50Total

Lowndes County Development Authority Terms are up for Brooks Akins, Gary Cannon, and Jerome Tucker. Cannon and Tucker want reappointment, and the Commission almost always reappoints.

Resolution Rejection Quitclaim Deed; Affidavit Regarding Title- Branch Point. The County has laid out the right-of-way for a county road known as Fender Road between Williams School… Trading a parcel to William Q. Touchton, Jr. for another parcel for the road.

REZ-2020-20 Ballyntyne 6712 Clyattstone Road (0071 008) R-1 to R-10, Water & Sewer, ~40.3 acres . For 105+ house lots. In 2006, for a more complicated plan on the same site, GLPC recommended denial 7:0, County Commission denied 2:0. What did GLPC vote this time? And how about factoring in all the costs of paving Clyattstone Road over many previous Commission meetings? Continue reading

Videos: budget and wood pellet plant at Adel City Council 2020-09-21

The wood pellet plant annexation had one vote against, and two against the rezoning.


[Reporters, Council, Opposition, Agenda]
Reporters, Council, Opposition, Agenda

The budget, millage, and alcohol license passed unanimously.

There was little discussion and no public input. There was a Public Hearing two weeks before.

Below are links to each LAKE video of each agenda item, with a very few notes, and a few more pictures. Continue reading

Budget and wood pellet farm –Adel City Council 2020-09-08

Adel staff answered extensive questions about the budget, in the Adel City Council meeting, Tuesday, August 8, 2020. The proposed wood pellet plant for export to Europe was criticised by several local citizens, and defended by members of local authorities and commissions, as well as its CEO, speaking from Houston, Texas, on a laptop screen.

Budget & Wood Pellet Plant @ Adel City Council 2020-09-08

Below are links to each LAKE video of each agenda item and each speaker, with a few notes. See also Continue reading

Education, Extension, Prisoners, Fire, Water, Sewer, Nelson Hill, Wages, Taxes, Clerk @ LCC 2020-08-24

A busy agenda for 8:30 AM Monday morning, with voting 5:30 PM Tuesday, includes especially taxes, and alcohol, sewer, twice, education, extension agents, Prison Work Details, and Architectural Services for Lowndes County Fire Station #5 – Bemiss Road Fire Station Alterations and Additions.

[Aerial Map]
Aerial Map for Uncle Carlo’s Italian Ristorante, 1024 Lakes Blvd., Lake Park, GA.

Plus appointment of a new County Clerk, Belinda Lovern, and Deputy Clerk, Sabrina Denson. No posting of the positions is mentioned.

Cost What
$147,954.00Annual Contract Renewal, Georgia Department of Corrections – Prison Work Details
$141,841.00Contract for Extension Agents and Staff
$110,000.00Peterson Road Lift Station Emergency Repair
$44,400.00Architectural Services for Lowndes County Fire Station #5 – Bemiss Road Fire Station Alterations and Additions
$41,840.00Nelson Hill Discharge Manhole
$5,699.35Tax Commissioners’ Back Wage Settlement with Department of Labor
$-32,000.00USDA Building Lease Amendment No. 4
$459,734.35Total

The Lowndes County Commission is Repealing Approvals Authorizing the Tax Commissioner to Waive Penalties and Interest, apparently because of a Tax Commissioners' Back Wage Settlement with Department of Labor.

After last year’s vote of the people to ask the Georgia legislature to make the Tax Assessors appointed, not elected, the legislature did that. Now the County Commission is setting the number of Assessors at three, with initial staggered terms of 3, 4, and 5 years, and after that 3 years for each.

This is after two weeks ago the Lowndes County Commission rolled back the tax millage rate slightly.

Here is the agenda. The entire board packet, together with the Minutes of the meetings of two weeks ago (Work Session, Millage Hearing, and Regular Session) is on LAKE website.

LOWNDES COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
PROPOSED AGENDA
WORK SESSION, MONDAY, AUGUST 24, 2020, 8:30 a.m.
REGULAR SESSION, TUESDAY, AUGUST 25, 2020, 5:30 p.m.
327 N. Ashley Street – 2nd Floor

Continue reading

Videos: County paying for road right of way @ LCC 2019-01-08

They added two items to the agenda they didn’t even mention in the previous morning’s Work Session: purchase of some real estate on Davidson Road near Moody Air Force Base, and “just compensation” for right of way on Simpson Road.

Wait a minute! For ten years we’ve been told the county no longer buys rights of way: if you want your road paved, you have to donate the right of way. So why this exception? And why sneak it in like this?

Will Kamisha Martin get paid for right of way if the county paves Black Road? Will Rev. Berlinda Hart Love get paid for right of way if the county paves Williams School Road? They were the two citizens who were heard.

Not on the agenda were Continue reading

Videos: Retreat! Appointment to Development Authority, Abandon Reed Road, Ed Hay Lease, Forestry Speaks @ LCC 2019-01-07

Longest Monday morning was Chief Ranger Stephen Spradley’s Georgia Forestry report, a copy of which, scanned by Gretchen, is on the LAKE website.

Second longest was Chairman Bill Slaughter’s comments, in which he listed four upcoming events: Continue reading