County OK on rezone request
by JOYANNA WEBER, Banner Staff Writer
May 07, 2013 | 810 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Area residents’ concerns and a signed petition in opposition to the corner of North Lee Highway and Old Charleston Lane being rezoned were presented to the Bradley County Commission Monday.

The Commission approved changing the site from agriculture/residential (FAR) to general commercial use (C-2) in an 8-3 vote. Sixth District Commissioner Robert Rominger and 1st District Commissioners Terry Caywood and Ed Elkins voted against the rezoning. Fourth District Commissioner J. Adam Lowe passed on voting because he is doing business with one of the people who signed the petition. Fifth District Commissioner Bill Ledford and 7th District Commissioner Mark Hall were absent.

Fourth District Commissioner Charlotte Peak-Jones said some of the citizens’ concerns were based on inaccurate information.

North Club Estates residents opposed the rezoning, saying it would increase traffic in the area. North Club Estates is located on Robin Lane off of Old Charleston Lane. Residents said increased traffic would create a safety issue for children in the area.

“Our main issue is safety for our neighborhood. We watch out for each other. We do not want the extra traffic. We do not want it to be a safety issue,” resident Kaye Roahn said.

A business on the site would make it more difficult for residents to get onto North Lee Highway from Old Charleston Lane, some residents said.

Don Moats, speaking on behalf of a subdivision resident, presented commissioners with the signed petition of those opposed to the rezoning.

Moats expressed concern that if a business was built on the site access to the business would come from Old Charleston Lane.

Bradley County Planner Bently Thomas said access to the site would be from North Lee Highway, not Old Charleston Lane. Thomas said in his opinion traffic on Old Charleston Lane would not be increased.

“I can’t imagine that someone would try to use the Old Charleston Road behind it (as access to the site). The expenditure to put access there would be astronomical,” said Jo Organ, who has applied for the rezoning in order to sell the property.

Concerns about a creek near the property, increases in litter in the area and effects on area wildlife were also voiced by residents as concerns about the site becoming commercial property.

Organ said she does not yet have a buyer. However, rezoning opens up opportunities to develop and use the site. The site is currently a vacant lot.

Organ said existing commercial property is in the area.

“The highest and best use of the property is really commercial,” Organ said.

Also during the meeting:

- A request to rezone a portion of Lauderdale Highway from agriculture/residential (FAR) to general commercial use (C-2) to be used as a gas station was approved. A request to rezone property on Spring Place Road to general commercial use (C-2) from agriculture/residential (FAR) was also approved. A used car business is planned for the site.

- Environmental officer guidelines were reviewed and updated. Commissioners passed a resolution regarding land with “overgrown vegetation, accumulation of debris and dilapidated structures that pose a health and safety threat to county residents.” Another resolution addressed litter.

Bradley County Attorney Crystal Freiberg said the resolutions were amendments that provided further clarification and made requirements easier to enforce. The changes also brought the county in line with changes in state law.

“In my interpretation too, it gives him (Environmental office Joe Renner) a little more discretion. It gives him guidelines but … also if he looks at something and says this is a hazard to the citizens’ health and safety … if there was a rat infestation or something like that (he can act on that),” Freiburg said.

Sixth District Commissioner Mel Griffith suggested an amendment to the resolution that would address overgrown properties.

“Nothing in this resolution is intended to interfere with farming/agricultural operations,” Griffith said.

This statement was added to the resolution.

The resolution also gives the Commission a choice whether to fix a property presenting an environmental issue after a property owner does not address the issue within 10 days of receiving a notice from the environmental officer. Before the change the county was required to pay for cleanup of the property.

In the litter resolution, Lowe requested a section stating that if litter contained a person’s name “there shall be a rebuttable presumption that (the person mentioned) has committed the offense of criminal littering” be removed.

Seventh District Commissioner Bill Winters pointed out the initial reason the Commission was reconsidering the environmental officer resolutions was to give the environmental officer better means of enforcement.

The section was removed. Freiberg said there is already provision for criminal littering in state law.

“We don’t have to have it, we just put it [in initially] because we thought it would give some more teeth to his ability,” Freiberg said.

The resolution passed with Rominger as the only dissenting vote. Rominger had proposed passing the motion with the criminal littering section intact.

- The Commission also voted to have Freiberg “petition the court to waive penalties, interest and fees on private roads with delinquent taxes when the property owners request said relief due to lack of notice.” In the future, the property assessor will divide the taxes equally among the residents living on the road.

Elkins said the taxes should be divided based on how much of a person’s property touches the road. Winters said this would not have taken into consideration how much someone uses the road.

Whether the county will continue to allow private roads in subdivisions will be discussed by the Bradley County Planning Commission and the Road Committee. Third district commissioner Jeff Morelock passed on the vote. Morelock said he had a conflict of interest because he was involved in an ongoing issue with a private road.