Large delegation opposes changes to land use regulations
A standing room only crowd packed the Grady County commission chamber Tuesday night to take part in a public hearing regarding proposed revisions to the county’s special land use ordinance.
Proposed changes includes registration, lighting, noise restrictions, enforcement, fees, application procedures and complaints.
The majority of the large delegation were opposed to the proposed changes.
Grady County is being sued by MTF 867, LLC, Millsaps Training Facility, LLC, and Michigan Motocross, LLC, all of whom filed for variances to the land use regulations in 2005. The county denied all variances. A legal suit was filed in October 2006 against the county.
These proposed revisions come after several months of closed door discussions by the board and its legal counsel in the matter, Thomasville attorney Raleigh Rollins.
Under Rollins’ advice the county suspended enforcement of the regulations pertaining to noise enforcement and lighting until the law suit is settled.
On Tuesday night, commissioners heard overwhelmingly that residents and property owners located near or adjacent to the motocross tracks are opposed to the proposed changes.
Claire Matturro, a resident of southern Grady County, highlighted vagueness in the revisions that caused her concern.
Another area of opposition regarded the enforcement provisions of the revised ordinance.
Sydney Gainey questioned the ordinance language dealing with enforcement and said it should not be the property owner or resident to initiate a complaint. He said the system of calling a complaint to Decatur-Grady 911 was a “failure.” Gainey contends that the process does not work, takes too long and is frustrating.
He also noted that often, as soon as a complaint is called in, the activity at the track “miraculously” ceases. “I don’t know if they are monitoring a scanner or just how they are getting the information, but it happens,” Gainey said.
He said that of 22 documented complaints, only eight times did county personnel respond and two of those were by sheriff’s deputies.
John and Jennifer Wells, residents of Bold Springs Road, hired a third party company to evaluate the proposed ordinance revisions and it was the company’s determination that the changes would increase the noise pollution on their property.
John Wells also noted that the proposed revisions would allow noise 20 decibels louder than other jurisdictions.
Iris Brookins, another resident of the Bold Springs Road area and homeowner in Pine Park Estates, said that along Bold Springs Road there are homes and property with a taxable value of $6.4 million compared to the $1.3 million taxable value of the motocross tracks. She said she had appealed her taxable value to the tax assessors and received a 14 percent reduction on the taxable value of her home. “Imagine if everyone of my neighbors took the time to appeal their value. I think that would have an impact on your tax revenue,” she said.
Other residents and property owners said the county is allowing a few sportsmen to have “fun” and “make a lot of noise” at the expense of hundreds of others.
David Poole reminded commissioners that he has been protesting against the noise created by the motocross tracks for the last eight years. “When is it going to end? You’ve got one group of people destroying hundreds of people’s homes,” he said.
Only two participants spoke favorably of the proposed revisions.
Johnny White, a resident of Old Thomasville Road, urged the commissioners to adopt the proposed changes in an effort to compromise with the motocross tracks. “I believe the county is spending too much money on legal fees. Give a little and meet in the middle because the best thing to do is try and settle this and move on. I sympathize with those folks living around the tracks, but the county allowed them to come in, we permitted them, and now we’re trying to tell them they can’t operate like they want,” White said.
Martin Watson, owner of Pro Tech Cycles on U.S. 84 in Cairo, made the point that the cycles do have exhausts and mufflers. “You have to take into consideration if there is one bike being ridden or 20 bikes. Take that into consideration when you make changes,” he said.
For the most part the hearing was civil and orderly, but a comment by David Poole questioning an alleged conflict of interest pertaining to Commissioner Charles Renaud resulted in tempers flaring.
Poole alleged Renaud had a conflict in regard to motocross because of land sold by the commissioner’s wife to Colleen Millsaps and Pete Brewington, both of whom are associated with local motocross activities.
Renaud attempted to clarify his position, but was not allowed to speak by Chairman Bobby Burns.
Chairman Burns called both men down and said if they did not refrain he would have them removed from the hearing by the sheriff.
At the conclusion of the hearing, Chairman Burns thanked the participants for their interest in the proposed revisions to the land use regulations and he stated, ”Your comments have not fallen on deaf ears.”
Commissioners accepted the public comments and will take them under advisement as they continue to deliberate over the proposed changes. No action was taken and no future meeting to discuss the public comments and revisions was scheduled.
Following the meeting, Commissioner Renaud contacted The Messenger to correct the record in regard to the alleged conflict of interest.
“In late 2006, my wife sold two separate residential lots, which were listed with a local real estate agency, to Pete Brewington. We did not know who the buyer was until the end of the negotiations. Mr. Brewington turned around and sold one of the lots to Ms. Millsaps, and we had nothing to do with that transaction. Mr. Brewington has since built a home on his lot and Ms. Millsaps’ lot remains vacant. All of this took place prior to me taking office and had absolutely nothing to do with motocross. The purchase price was in no way inflated or anything. It was simply a real estate transaction on two pieces of vacant residential property in the city limits of Cairo,” Commissioner Renaud stated.