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January 13, 2014

County commissioners nix rezoning request

New business would have meant 18-22 new jobs

TIFTON — Tift County commissioners voted unanimously Monday night during a public hearing to deny a petition for rezoning by Anna Jensen Massey.

The petition requested rezoning 13.271 acres owned by Massey and located at the southeastern quadrant of the intersection of State Route 125 North and Brighton Road. Massey had requested that the zoning be changed from Community Commercial and 11.3 acres Agricultural to General Business. The request was made in light of plans to build a 10,000-square-foot country store and a 20,000 square foot building for agricultural equipment sales and storage, which would do business as Aimtrac.

At its December 12 meeting, the Greater Tift County Planning and Zoning Commission recommended denial of the request, because given the existing uses of the property in that area, it would not be appropriate to change the zoning to General Business. The proposed property faces Brighton Road and Highway 125, commission notes state, and no other similar uses or zoning exists in that area, and the rezoning would "alter the character of the area."

The Southern Georgia Regional Commission also reviewed the application and recommended denial.

Kim Brownlee Colwell, agent for the property, told the zoning commission the store, adjacent to the tractor sales building, would be similar to other country stores in the area. She added that Aimtrac would bring 18 to 22 new jobs to Tifton.

In Monday night's meeting, a public hearing on the matter was held. Colwell reiterated her earlier commentary, emphasizing that any concerns expressed by residents in the area near the property had been or would be addressed, including lighting and drainage issues. She also said there are no other options for the company in Tift County, as other properties that would be large enough are either not for sale or overpriced.

Attorney Joseph Carter spoke on behalf of Long Pine (subdivision) Homeowners Association, and encouraged commissioners to deny the application. As part of his presentation, Carter provided booklets to commissioners that contained information about zoning in the area in question, as well as reasons why the request should be denied. The booklet also contained photographs of several local businesses that are zoned General Business, including Piggly-Wiggly, Subway and McDonald's.

"I've provided some photographs of some of the things that would fit into the zoning of GB," he said. "I don't have any issue with any of these particular businesses, but they would be allowed if you made this approval. You might look at those and say, 'You went out and got the worst pictures you could find.' I didn't exactly do that, but I kind of did. And the reason is that's what you're agreeing to. You're agreeing to the worst of those things that could exist in the county, not the best."

Once the public hearing was brought to a close, Commissioner Sherry Miley spoke.

"We'd love to see you buy in Tift County. We are pro-growth." But based on the county's Comprehensive Plan and the fact that rezoning the property would not comply with that plan, Miley made the motion to deny the request, which was seconded by Commissioner Melissa Chevers. The vote to deny the application for rezoning was unanimous.

Commissioners also heard from Tift County Emergency Management Agency Director Jason Jones, who also spoke at last week's workshop. The county is building a new Emergency Operations Center, and J. Glenn Gregory and Associates, Architects PC in Valdosta has provided a preliminary set of drawings. In the process of reviewing the drawings and preparing to approve them, Jones noted that in meetings concerning the building, it became apparent that the specially-fitted consoles and furniture that would be needed for 911 dispatchers could be purchased at a substantial savings of more than $100,000.

The county had previously contracted with Motorola to purchase the needed radio system. Motorola also agreed to provide the needed furniture for a reduced price of $138,574, because it is a vendor for the company that sells the furniture. But in order to take advantage of the discount, the furniture has to be purchased as part of the radio system. Jones told commissioners last week that it would not add to the original price of the radio system – the money would come from EOC SPLOST funds, but did require a change order.

County commissioners approved the purchase of the Motorola radio system for a financed amount of $2,583,667.90 in August 2013.

Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the change order to purchase the furnishings. They additionally voted to approve the new EOC/911 concept, as submitted by the architect. The approval of the concept plans will allow for the search to begin for contractors and other personnel for the project.

To contact editor Angye Morrison, call 382-4321.

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