County ponders exception for mobile home ordinance

Published 12:30 pm Monday, April 24, 2017

By Michael Murray

MERICUS — The Sumter County Board of Commissioners met for its monthly work session on April 11 at the Sumter County Courthouse and reconvened at the same location on April 18 for its monthly regular meeting.
At the work session, the board spoke with Sumter County citizen, Craig Walker, who advised the board that there are several sections of road in the Meadow Wood Subdivision in which the topsoil is washing away from the asphalt at the edge of the road.
Board chairman, Randy Howard, advised Walker to contact county administrator, Bill Twomey, and make an appointment to meet him at the property and discuss the issue.
The board then heard from Daphne Lumpkin, who had requested a special exemption to place a manufactured home on Sylvan Drive.
Lumpkin advised the board that the property had previously been occupied by a manufactured home, though the home had been removed several years back.
The board members informed Lumpkin that the neighborhood had been zoned for permanent structures over 50 years ago and that the mobile home that had previously occupied the property had been grandfathered in as an exception to that zoning ordinance.
Commissioner, George Torbert, advised the board members that he had spoken with Lumpkin the previous week. “My personal opinion is that there were a lot of things that should have caught this problem before it got to this point,” he said. “From the financing of it to the purchase of it, it just seems that there were so many things … All she was trying to do was do the right thing. I understand that, completely …”
“I’ve wasted a lot of money and, you know, we were led wrong from the beginning,” Lumpkin said. “When we came here, we spoke with [County Code Enforcement Mike Sudduth’s] secretary and she led us wrong. I’ve spent that money … I don’t understand why a mobile home can’t go back into the same area.”
Lumpkin went on to say that when the citizen who lodged the complaint had moved into the area, the mobile home that previously occupied the property was already onsite.
Commissioner Mark Waddell asked Sudduth in what way his secretary had misinformed Lumpkin. “I don’t know what her comment is on that. This is my first knowledge of that,” Sudduth replied. “It was my understanding that [my secretary] had not talked to this person at all.”
Lumpkin said her husband had spoken with Sudduth’s secretary, who advised him to meet with an individual from the Sumter County Health Department. She went on to say that, the second time she contacted Sudduth’s office in order to obtain a permit, the secretary informed her that she would not be able to put the mobile home on that particular plot.
“If his secretary had told me or my husband in the beginning, ‘You all need to talk to Mike [Sudduth] and see what’s going on’, we wouldn’t have went this far,” Lumpkin said.
Lumpkin said that the individual from the health department had checked out the plot and informed her that they would need to clean out the septic tank, clear *the land, and pour foundation slabs.
“We got everything situated; ready to put the mobile home out there when I get crushed in the face like this,” she concluded.
Chairman Howard asked her if she had learned that the neighborhood was zoned for permanent structures when she applied to have the septic system updated. She advised Howard that that was not the case.
“I found out the day I signed off on this mobile home,” she said. She stated that she had contacted the code enforcement office after purchasing the manufactured home and was informed that she could not install the home on that plot.
“Did the mobile home company ever say anything to you?” Waddell asked. “They have responsibilities as well where they know that, if they need to move something, where it can to be moved to.”
Lumpkin said she had an appraisal letter from “the people that came and looked at the land” and that she was sold a mobile home and land package deal.
Waddell reiterated his question, asking if the mobile home company had advised her as to whether or not she could move the mobile home onto the property or not. He also asked her if the health department had asked her what the purpose of the land was to be when they evaluated the septic system.
“The mobile home company … If they move mobile homes all of the time, that’s their business. They know where they can and can’t put them,” said Waddell. “I understand the expenses that you’ve gone through, but the land and mobile home package … They know what they can and they can’t do and where they can and can’t put a mobile home. They should have advised you before you signed your paperwork what you could or couldn’t do because there are restrictions on where they can and can’t go.”
Later in the discussion, County attorney, Kimberly Reid, advised the board that, if they wanted to make an exception to the ordinance in that neighborhood, they could either take a vote to grant a special exemption or interpret the wording of the ordinance, which states that properties in the neighborhood are subject to the ordinance unless they are “discontinued”. Reid added that, since the mobile home previously located on the property had been removed over 10 years ago, the latter option might not be possible.
Various commissioners then voiced their concerns about the precedent that would, potentially, be set if they allowed a special exemption, stating that they did not wish to set such a precedent.
The commission did not approve the special exemption.
“I think that your complaints need to be with the mobile home company, the people who mad that loan …” Torbert told Lumpkin. “I think that they sold you something … without doing their due diligence and making sure that everything is in order … I think they dropped the ball and led you in the wrong direction.”
Reid added that, though the commissioners could not give Lumpkin legal advice, they could recommend that she speak with a lawyer to explore her options and determine what her next step should be.
Commissioner Clay Jones asked Torbert, who is also on the board of the Sumter County Land Bank Authority, if it would be possible for the authority to get involved. Torbert responded, saying that, because of the zoning ordinance, that would not be possible.
After Lumpkin gave her closing statement, Howard addressed her, saying, “What has happened to you is not right …”
“I know you feel like we don’t feel sorry for you, but that is not the case,” said Torbert. “I do. There are wrongs done in the world every day that we can’t fix …”
“I hate it. All of us do,” added Howard. “The ball was dropped on your behalf.”
Other items discussed at the work session:
County financial director, Janis Jarvis, asked the commissioners to approve an application to continue a grant that the county has historically been approved for in the amount of $269,208.
The county approved a contract with Southern Concrete, of Albany, for bridge repairs in Sumter County in the amount of $1,529,206.
The commissioners discussed the proposed roundabout project at the intersection of Ha. Highway 27 East and Southland Road. Waddell advised the board that the project has not yet been approved by the Georgia Department of Transportation and that they would need to survey the intersection before any further action can be taken.
At the commission’s regular meeting on April 18, the board heard from County Human Resources Manager, Towanna Howard, who asked them to approve a bid from a company called Condry and Associates for a salary compensation study.
The grant application that Jarvis had discussed with the board the previous week was approved.
A revised version of the Hospital Authority Ordinance was approved.