Zoning Amendments among topics discussed at Sumter County Board of Commissioners regular meeting

Published 12:11 pm Tuesday, March 28, 2023

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AMERICUS – The Sumter County Board of Commissioners (BOC) held its monthly regular meeting on Tuesday, March 21, at the Sumter County Courthouse. Among the topics that were on the docket for discussion was the zoning amendment.

Board Chairman Mark Waddell was not present at the meeting and Commissioner Jesse Smith oversaw the proceedings.

According to County Attorney Hayden Hooks, there was a bill set forth by the Georgia House of Representatives that had not past yet as of Tuesday, March 14, but Commissioner Jim Reid asked Hooks if the county should do something before Governor Kemp signs the bill into law. Hooks replied that if the Governor signs the bill, it would make what the county does null and void, but she added that the House bills that were passed in last year’s legislative session take effect in July of this year, but they wanted to give people time to update their ordinances. She said that the bill entitled Cityfield 213, which deals with mobile homes, is still pending and has not passed yet.

Commissioner Smith asked if there was still time to make any amendments to the zoning ordinances. Attorney Hooks replied that the county still needs to move forward with some of the changes in the ordinances. She added that the Cityfield 213 bill deals with the R1L, one cannot replace a mobil home with a new mobil home. One would have to build a house. “This law says that if you have an old mobil home, you can replace it with a new mobil home,” Hooks said. In other words, if this Cityfield 213 bill passes, it would require changes to the current ordinance.

Sumter County Fire and Rescue Chief Jerry Harmon stated that there are several ordinances that need to be changed. According to Harmon, one of the ordinances says that if you are in an Ag district, before you build a house, you can only cut out 10 acres, which is what Sumter County’s zoning ordinance says. However, Harmon stated that according to the State of Georgia, it’s five acres. “That has been voted on, I think, two years ago, but the ordinance never changed,” Harmon said. He also mentioned that according to how the current zoning ordinances are written, anyone can put a “tiny house” just about anywhere in the county and it wouldn’t be regulated. “We need some kind of ordinance on tiny houses,” Harmon said.

Commissioner David Baldwin asked if Harmon wanted the BOC to give him permission to go ahead and start working on changing these changes to prepare them to be voted on. Attorney Hooks replied that what they are asking for is for the BOC to approve some outside firms to come in and assess the situation. “They are specialists in the appeals process,” Hooks said. “Whatever they come up with, they will bring back to y’all.” Hooks added that the ordinance is 100 pages long and added that it would be helpful to bring it to the BOC in parts so that they wouldn’t have to look at a 100-page ordinance. Hooks added that the ordinance could be looked at and broken down before a final adoption in July.

Harmon added that his office has gone through and picked out things that need to be changed because of the changing of the laws and stated that these changes need to be reviewed by the BOC. “We’ve already outlined a bunch of those changes,” Harmon said.

Commissioner Baldwin made a motion to approve the quote from Jenkins, Bowen and Walker and retain their services in the re-writing of these ordinances and Commissioner Clay Jones seconded the motion. The BOC voted and the motion passed unanimously.

The BOC also had a discussion regarding Barge Design and Solutions, Inc. Sumter County Department of Public Works Director Jim Littlefield stated that this is in reference to the current landfill project. Littlefield stated that back in April of 2019, the BOC and Oasis Consulting Services signed an agreement to develop the plans for the project and that company did the initial investigation and came up with the details to submit for this project. Littlefield went on to say that an engineer with Oasis, Robby Blanton, left that company and went to Barge. He then added that he wanted the BOC to approve a formality that would allow Blanton to continue providing engineering services. Littlefield requested that the BOC approve the agreement with Barge, the engineering firm Blanton is currently with, that he will remain the project engineer and Oasis will be the project contractors and will report to Blanton.

Littlefield added that Blanton is the liaison between the county and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPD).

Commissioner Smith asked for a motion to approve the agreement with Barge, with some modifications made by County Attorney Hayden Hooks. Commissioner Baldwin made a motion for approval and Commissioner Jones seconded the motion. The BOC voted and the motion to approve passed unanimously.