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One Sumter and Pineland Telephone Cooperative make request of County Board of Commissioners at BOC Work Session

AMERICUS – The Sumter County Board of Commissioners (BOC) held its monthly Work Session on Tuesday, September 14 at the Sumter County Courthouse. Most of the Commissioners, along with the various department heads, met in the Commissioners’ meeting room, but Board Chairman Mark Waddell and Vice Chairman Scott Roberson participated in the meeting via Zoom.

At this work session, the BOC heard from representatives from One Sumter, a foundation that is dedicated to enhancing economic activity in Sumter County, and Pineland Telephone Cooperative, the telephone company that is helping to bring Internet to all areas of the county. Both were at the work session to request that the BOC contribute a certain amount of money towards the project of bringing broadband Internet to all of Sumter County.

According to its statement of purpose on its website: onesumter.org, this foundation is “dedicated to being a catalyst for change” and “leverages the investment of its donors to build community collaborative to tackle systematic challenges related to growth, economic development and workforce development.” In other words, this foundation strives to improve economic growth in the county and to make it more attractive to industry.

Alex Saratsiotis, who is the Chairman of Accelerated Therapy, serves on the Board of Directors of One Sumter and was at the BOC’s work session to request that the BOC approve an agreement to contribute monetarily so that all of Sumter County can enjoy Internet service. Saratsiotis told the BOC that Pineland has been in the county for about three years now and that the investment the company has made in the community has been a huge success.

“Now, we’re looking at residential and what we’re talking about is getting fiber to residents of Sumter County that have no access to any internet,” Saratsiotis said.

He went on to make the case that because of the pandemic and the Sumter County Board of Education being forced to not allow children to learn in person in the classroom, having strong internet service throughout the county is now more important than ever. “Internet is now just as important as electricity,” Saratsiotis said.

Details about the grant and the support it has received from the county will be forthcoming.

In other news from the work session, the BOC called a Public Hearing to discuss two zoning requests from Andrew Poe, who lives in the Statham Lakefront Subdivision on the north side of Americus. The first request from Poe is to rezone Parcel 1520-307-1 from Lake Single Family Residential (R-1L) to Agricultural (AG) for future use. Poe’s property is located in the Statham Lakefront Subdivision and is currently vacant.

Speaking on behalf of the Sumter County Planning and Zoning Commission, Heather Tyler told the BOC that the property Poe is trying to get rezoned sits in a wetland state and that he is trying to rezone his property to agricultural status because it is next to other agriculturally-zoned areas. Tyler stated that the first parcel that Mr. Poe wants to rezone had no opposition from area residents because they feel that it should have already been agriculturally rezoned. She went on to say that the Planning and Zoning Commission reviewed Mr. Poe’s request to rezone the parcel of land as agricultural and approved it.

Board Chairman Mark Waddell asked if anyone wanted to speak in favor of the rezoning and against it. Mr. Poe was not in the meeting and no one spoke in favor of or against Poe’s request.

Waddell then asked if any of the Commissioners had anything to say regarding Poe’s request to rezone the parcel. Commissioner Scott Roberson stated that he is very familiar with this piece of land and that Poe doesn’t want to do anything with that parcel of land. “That’s all wetlands,” Roberson said. “I don’t think there’s anything you could do with it anyway.”

The BOC then moved to the second parcel of land (Parcel 1520-307-4) that Pore is wanting to have rezoned from Lake Single Family Residential to Agricultural for future use and to store agricultural equipment. This property is also located in the Statham Lakefront Subdivision and is currently vacant. Tyler stated that Mr. Poe also requested to have this parcel of land rezoned along with the previous parcel so that he could have a place to store all of his boating necessities and campers. Tyler also stated that Poe has a tractor that he uses to mow the seven-acre parcel. “He’s just looking for somewhere to put everything that is out of the elements so that it’s not sitting out in the open,” Tyler said. “When he came in to request it to be rezoned to agricultural, we were under the understanding that he would have to have a principle building on the property first. When we got into our meeting last week, we realized that under the accessory building definition, technically, he could put one there and not have to have this property rezoned.” Tyler went on to say that members of the Planning and Zoning Commission talked with County Attorney Kimberly Reid about this and that Attorney Reid defined “Accessory Building” as a structure that is incidental to the use of the property or incidental to the primary structure, the principle building. Tyler went on to reiterate Roberson’s point that Poe has a house in the Statham Lake Subdivision and that the parcel of land he is wanting to rezone is around the corner from his home, but added that he doesn’t have room on the property where his home is to store all of his stuff (boat, campers, etc.). “In this case, he just wants to put something there,” Tyler said. She added that at a meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission (PZC), it was decided that Poe could store his stuff there without having to have the parcel rezoned as agricultural and that they gave him the option to withdraw his request to rezone the parcel. However, Tyler stated that Mr. Poe felt that since he had come this far with his request for rezoning, he wanted to continue the process just to see what the outcome would be.   However, Tyler also stated that several residents in the area were opposed to rezoning because it would involve putting agricultural labels on property that is in the middle of a residential district. “I believe on page 68 of the Comprehensive Plan actually shows and defines residential areas for future land use in that the agricultural zoning would not fit for this parcel,” Tyler said. “So our board took that into consideration and we did remind the residents that this hearing was not for placing a structure there. This hearing was simply for rezoning for agricultural definition.” She went on to say that after the Planning and Zoning Commission’s meeting, Poe came into the PZC’s office with plans on how he would use his land if the request for rezoning was granted and that Sumter County Fire and Rescue Chief Jerry Harmon reviewed those plans very thoroughly. In closing, Tyler stated that the PZC denied Poe’s request for rezoning because the parcel did not meet the future land use for the Comprehensive Plan and because it didn’t meet Section 23.05 of the Zoning Ordinance.

Waddell replied that whether the parcels are rezoned to agricultural status or not, Poe is still allowed to build a structure there and that the request for rezoning states that it is for future use of storing agricultural equipment. Waddell then asked if anyone wanted to speak in favor of or against the rezoning of this second parcel of land, but no one responded in favor of or against it. He then asked if any Commissioners wanted to comment on it. None of the Commissioners had any comments.

With that, Waddell asked the Commissioners to look over the situation in the coming days and that the BOC would vote on it at its regular meeting on Tuesday, September 21.