TIFTON -- The Tift County Board of Commissioners met Monday for their December regular session and debated several issues during the last meeting for three of the commission members.
One of the most controversial issues was the proposed rezoning of a 10.89-acre property on Ferry Lake Road from a Residential to a Manufactured Housing Park classification. The request made by David Harrell was defeated, 5-1, during a vote by commissioners, with only Charlotte Bedell voting for the rezoning request. The request had been recommended for approval by the county staff and the Tift County Planning and Zoning Board.
During a public hearing, Mark Sandifer spoke on behalf of Harrell. He said that it was Harrell's intention to build a 48-lot manufactured home subdivision. With the Residential classification, Harrell could already build up to 40 mobile home lots, but Sandifer said that making 48 would make more economic sense for the owner.
Harrell's stated plan was different than the stereotypical view of mobile home or trailer parks. Sandifer said that the plan included a gated community with many regulations that had to be followed. He said that they would clean up the land and improve the neighborhood.
"We just ask for the opportunity to make a unique, really, a first of its kind community here," said Sandifer.
Kimberly Brinkley spoke for the residents of the area, with a signed petition with 90 names voicing their protest to the rezoning. The residents did not want a new mobile home park being built in their community.
Brinkley said that the residents feared that a new park there would create traffic problems for a congested community.
Opposition was also expressed about the "cramped" conditions of the proposed neighborhood. The plan was for the homes to be aligned in rows with little distance between them.
Commissioner Moody Huggins was most vocal in his opposition to the proposal, despite his reluctance to go against the recommendations of the lower boards. He cited congestion problems and flooding and water problems in the area of the proposed subdivision.
"It's just going to cause a problem to get larger and larger," said Huggins.
"We've just got a lot of problems that we're going to create (if the request is approved). It's definitely going to cost us some years down the road."
The meeting was the last for Commissioners Harriette Rowe and Melissa Chevers and Commission Chairman Buddy Bryan.
Rowe had served with the board for 12 years and waited until nearly the last moment to spring a surprise on the commission.
She called an announced vote, proposing to outlaw any person's name from county vehicles.
"Specifically the sheriff?" Bryan asked Rowe. Sheriff Gary Vowell's name appears on many Tift County Sheriff's Office cars.
"I'm not talking about the sheriff," said Rowe. "I'm talking about anybody."
After some discussion, the issue was put to vote and tied, 3 to 3, with Bedell, Rowe and Huggins voting for the ban. Commissioners Donnie Hester, Hugh Webb and Chevers voted against. Buddy Bryan broke the tie, voting against the ban, and settling the issue.
Despite her loss on the vote, Rowe had good things to say about her time on the commission.
"In my 12 years on this commission, I have enjoyed every minute of it," she said. "I've just had a ball.
"Life is made up of memories and I've always tried to make good memories."
Chevers, who took over the District 2 post when Daughtry Melton left to run for chairman, had served with the commission for less than a year. But she vowed that she would be back while thanking her fellow commissioners, particularly Bedell.
"My hat's off to Mrs. Bedell," she said. "I've learned a lot."
Bryan had few comments about his tenure as chairman. He did say that when he took over, the county was nearly $500,000 in debt and that it was now "solid." He challenged the new commissioners to keep it that way.
Also during the meeting:
- A rezoning request by Otis Wright to reclassify three acres of land on Oakridge Road from Agricultural Use to Residential was approved.
- A rezoning special request by Craig Riggins for a manufactured home in a Residential zone was approved.
- A beer and wine license for Latracia D. Stevenson was approved.
- A beer license for Viqar Ali was approved.
- A request for approval of $4,814 in clean-up charges to be applied toward a property on 2908 Brunswick St. was approved.
- A bid of $28,959 for a mass casualty trailer was awarded to Griffin Ford.
- The board approved a new indigent defense agreement.
- Several people were either appointed or re-appointed to boards administered by the county commission.
- Wording changes were made to the environmental ordinance.
- A proposed change to the county's employee training policy was tabled.
- Supplements of the Georgia Forestry Commission were approved.
- A member of Animal Control was appointed to the 911 Advisory Board.
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