May 20, 2021 Camden County Commissioner’s Meeting at 10:00 a.m.

This was a Planning and Zoning Meeting. It occurs every third week each month.

All commissioners were present.

There were several groups of people present in the audience which is normal for P&Z Meetings. Kim Willey was present from P&Z.

Before the P&Z reviews got underway, Commissioner Gohagan stated that the animal control box approved 2-1 at the previous meeting cost $6,922. It is not air conditioned.

The first agenda item was Plaza Beach Drive, a rezone from R-1 to B-2 zoning. This is a zoning dispute that has been presented at previous meetings. I discussed it when I covered the April 22, 2021 meeting. The developer is represented by an attorney: Aaron Ellsworth, and the Miramar Condominium Association is also represented by an attorney: Greg Williams.

I’ll give a summary of this dispute because there was a lot of back and forth questioning.

According to Commissioner Hasty, the area was originally zoned as a large number of B-2 lots and one R-1 lot because it used to be a resort. The developer currently owns several B-2 lots and the R-1 lot. The developer wants to build cabins and multi-family housing units that can be rented out. These can’t be built on an R-1 lot.

So the developer is requesting that the R-1 lot be rezoned to B-2 to match all of the other surrounding lots. Kim Willey explained that you cannot build across lots and in order to combine the lots, they have to have the same zoning designation.

At the last meeting, it seemed like there had been a potential solution where the developer was willing to put a deed restriction on the deed to assuage concerns that the developer might use the new B-2 zoning to build a restaurant or something of that nature. (Me: If I understand correctly, the other lots owned by the developer are already B-2).

Mr. Ellsworth had prepared a deed restriction for the property for this meeting. Commissioner Hasty was reluctant to act on a deed restriction that had not yet been filed because there was always the chance the commission might approve the re-zoning and then the developers might not file the deed restriction. Commissioner Hasty didn’t want to approve a change contingent upon another action and he didn’t think the Commission was allowed to do that.

Mr. Ellsworth was reluctant to file the deed restriction before the Commission voted because then the deed would be restricted and the Commission might still deny the re-zoning.

Mr. Williams, the attorney for Miramar Condominium Association, was clear about his position. Mr. Williams stated Ellsworth gave him the deed restriction right before the meeting so he hadn’t had time to properly review it. Mr. Williams also explained that he represents the association board and needs to present the deed restriction to them for a decision before he can represent their decision. Since it is an association board and not all members are local, this might take a few weeks. Mr. Williams also had concerns that the developer was basically the Grantor and restricting himself, the Grantee, on what could be done with the property.

And what followed next was quite a bit of back and forth between the two parties….

Commissioner Gohagan then walked across the back of the dais and spoke with Charles McElyea, the Legal Advisor to the Commission.

McElyea stated in his professional opinion that the deed was restricted in such a manner that the restriction could only be changed with a court order.

At this point, Commissioner Gohagan stated he was ready to vote on the matter.

It was then discussed that the R-1 property might be rezoned as R-3. Attorney Ellsworth stated his clients wanted to rezone the property as B-2 to avoid spot zoning and match the adjoining properties but they would be willing to rezone to R-3. Kim Willey from P&Z then explained an R-3 can’t be combined with other B-2 properties.

Commissioner Gohagan asked how the P&Z Board voted and I believe Kim Willey said they voted 5-2 in favor of the rezoning.

Commissioner Williams was inclined to table the matter. This brought an audible groan from the developer and his associates who were seated near me. Commissioner Hasty stated that it was his understanding that an agreed-upon deed restriction was going to brought to this meeting.

Commissioner Gohagan stated the property belongs to the developers and they’ve done everything the Commission has asked them to do. Commissioner Williams made a motion to table the matter. Commissioner Gohagan made a motion to approve the rezoning. Commissioner Hasty overrode Gohagan and told him there was a motion to table the matter on the floor. Hasty seconded the motion to table the matter. The commissioners voted to table the matter 2-1.

The matter was set for an early P&Z Meeting on June 8.

Phew.

The second P&Z item was a rezoning from R-1 to B-2. Ben Woodruff wanted to rezone an area he purchased in a tax sale so he could build a storage facility on it. Previously it was an illegal dumping site and used for a lot of illicit activity. Woodruff hauled approximately 50 tons of junk from the site and has had to chase numerous people out of the area. He seemed like a good guy and it was a nice break from the previous case where there was much more conflict. This was approved by the Commission unanimously.

The third P&Z item was for Bollinger Creek Road, Climax Springs. This was a rezoning request from B-2 to R-1. Nobody was present at the meeting to discuss the property. Commissioner Hasty asked me if I was there for or against the rezoning. I told him I was there just like I always am. Everyone laughed and then the meeting adjourned.

And that was that.

I did want to mention that I was impressed with the way that Kim Willey from P&Z seemed willing to work with property owners to give them the best choice of their zoning options. It’s nice to see good, professional service from our Camden County government. And Charlie got into the action too!

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