BOC goes against planning commission vote

Tia Lynn Ivey News

Despite a recommendation for denial from the county planning commission, the Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) approved a zoning map amendment in a 3-to-1 vote last week. To go against the county planning commission recommendations is an unusual move, but the dissenting commissioners felt it warranted in this case.

“I am going to vote that we approve this,” said Commissioner Ben Riden. “I am not going to vote with the planning commission on this one.”

Commissioners Donald Harris and Philip Von Hanstein followed suit, voting to approve the rezoning, while Commissioner Andy Ainslie voted against approval.

Stephan Nolan Watson requested a zoning map amendment from a Low Density Residential (R1) to a Heavy Commercial (C3) for a 3.205 – acre plot of land at 2220 Lions Club Road in order to operate a farm equipment sales business. Watson was reprimanded county code enforcement for having heavy equipment displayed on the property along with an “Equipment for Sale” sign.

“He was instructed to move the equipment back and remove the sign,” wrote planners in the county staff report. “The sign has not reappeared since Code Enforcement contact, but the equipment has moved toward the road again and has been arranged as a sale display.”

Watson’s attorney, Lee Abney, argued in a letter to the county that “this area serves as a transition from cities and unincorporated Morgan County and is the appropriate location of subject property’s proposed use. This area includes mixed uses, including commercial.”

County planners are concerned that rezoning the property to C3 would not be an appropriate “transition” as described in the Comprehensive plan. Also, six letters of support for Nolan’s business were submitted by surrounding neighbors.

“Regarding the request for C3 zoning, the applicant’s letter is correct that the Comp Plan shows the area as transitional in the future, which combines residential and commercial uses. The zoning map has not been updated to reflect zoning districts for such combined uses. However, the Comp Plan description for Transitional areas clearly states that the district must ‘make appropriate land use transitions from commercial, office, industrial and higher density/large lot residential and agricultural uses.’ Staff is concerned about the abrupt change from low density residential to heavy commercial this request would create.”

But Commissioner Riden and Von Hanstein were not convinced.

“We already opened that door with the new hospital,” said Riden.

“And isn’t this what you’d want on the bypass,” asked Von Hanstein.

The motion passed three-to-one, and Watson’s farm equipment sales business will be allowed to operate out of his property on Lions Club Road.

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