Monday, November 04, 2013

Oconee County Commissioners To Hold Zoning Hearings On Business Operating On Agricultural Land

Antique Acres

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners tomorrow night will hold public hearings on three zoning issues that, if approved, will allow Barton and Melanie Cartey to continue to operate their wedding reception business at 2531 Snows Mill Road in the western part of the county.

The Carteys already have built two reception halls, one resembling an old general store and the other resembling a barn, though county records do not show building permits having been issued for the two structures.

Antique Acres 10/26/2013

The reception halls have been on the property for approximately a year, according to the Planning Department, and the Carteys have been using the facility to host weddings and wedding receptions.

In addition to a rezone for the 1.6-acre parcel on which the two buildings sit, the Carteys are asking to be allowed to have a gravel rather paved parking lot and that they not be required to have a buffer around the business operation.

The commissioners also are scheduled to take up tomorrow night a request by the Connecting Point Community Church of Winder for a special use approval to construct a 255-seat sanctuary and related facilities on a 10-acre wooded tract on Lenru Road.

Conservation Easement

Allen Skinner, chief appraiser for the county, told me in a telephone conversation on Oct. 22 that his Property Appraisal Department became aware of the two buildings on the Cartey property when the Carteys sought to have their conservation use designation extended for another 10 years, beginning this year.

Skinner said his inspectors visited the 44.8 acres owned by the Carteys and discovered the two buildings and learned that the Carteys were using them to operate a business.

Skinner said his office informed the Carteys that a business such as theirs is prohibited on property designated for conservation use. Farmland with a conservation designation and easement is taxed at a lower rate than other land.

The Carteys did not receive a conservation use designation for this year, the county tax records indicate.

The rezone request is to cut out the 1.6 acres on which the two buildings sit from the larger tract and rezone the 1.6 acres for business, leaving the remaining 43.2 acres zoned as agricultural.

The Carteys can then apply next year for a conservation easement on the 43.2 acres.

Planning Commission Presentation

County tax records, which are under the responsibility of Skinner’s office, indicate the two buildings on the Cartey property were constructed in 2012. Each is 50 feet by 80 feet, and each has an assessed value of $65,250.

In making his presentation to the Planning Commission on Oct. 21, Planner Brad Callender showed an aerial photograph taken in 2012 that did not include the two buildings. Callender said two building had been constructed after that time.

Planning Commission members were given pictures of the existing buildings.

Despite that, the commissioners did not question the circumstances that had then voting on a rezone for a business already in operation with buildings already constructed.

The Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend to the Board of Commissioners approval of the rezone request. The Planning Commission did add the condition that “The only land use allowed on the site shall be limited to a reception hall.”

The Planning Commission does not review variance requests so took no action on the requests to allow a gravel parking lot and not to require the Carteys to buffer the 1.6 acres from the remaining part of their farm.

Antique Acres

The Carteys call their property Antique Acres, and they have old farm equipment stretched across their frontage on Snows Mill Road, just northeast of the Apalachee River.

County tax records do not show any permits being issued for the two reception halls built in 2012.

I asked B.R. White, director of the county’s Code Enforcement Office, to allow me to see all permits issued for the Cartey property.

The Carteys received permits for a barn and shed in 1994, a shed in 1995, another shed in 1996, an addition to a shop in 1998, a pole barn in 1999, a single family dwelling in 2000, a pool in 2005, and another pole barn in 2010.

In the narrative for the rezone request, the Carteys call the building intended to look like a barn a “wedding building” and the building designed to look like a country store a “reception hall.”

Both buildings contain handicap-accessible restrooms, according to the narrative, and the reception hall has a small kitchen area.

Code Enforcement Director White told me that no occupancy permits had been issued for the buildings.

Garrett Special Use

The county confronted another case of land use seemingly inconsistent with zoning classification earlier this year when Bernard and Simon Garrett asked the county for a special use permit to operate a materials recovery facility on land they own at 1441 Dials Mill Road.

That land is zoned for agricultural use, but the Garretts already are operating what the state calls a recovered materials processing facility on the site.

Roll Off Systems, headquartered nearby on B. Garrett Drive and owned and operated by the Bernard Garrett family, also is on land zoned for agriculture.

Code Enforcement Director White told me in August that the county intended to investigate both properties, but as of Friday White said no action had been taken by the county.

The county denied the Garrett request for the special use permit.

Neither the property at 1441 Dials Mill Road nor the property on which Roll Off Systems operates has a conservation easement, according to tax records, but three Garrett tracts totaling just more than 65 acres surrounding the Roll Off Systems facility are covered by conservation easements.

Connecting Point

The Connecting Point Community Church is proposing to build a 14,000-square-foot, two story building with associated parking on the Lenru Road property.

The first floor will be a 10,000-square-foot sanctuary, kitchen, fellowship hall and classroom.

The second floor will be 4,000 square-feet in space and will be unfinished.

The Planning Commission recommended approval of that request unanimously at its meeting on Oct. 21.


Anonymous said...

It seems that the Carteys and the Garretts are relying on that famous old saying -- "It is easier to get forgiveness than to get permission." And it is probably going to work for them.

Beanne said...

The take home message from the wedding reception place is: don't bother following the law (ignore the need for building permits) until it hurts you financially (no more conservation use). Then file what you need to get your financial benefit back. No penalties will be assessed. The rest of us need to learn from this.