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Leesburg tables zoning map vote

LEESBURG -- The Leesburg City Council decided to put off approval of a Planning Commission-recommended zoning map for the city after questions arose over a pair of maps being considered.

The map recommended for approval by the Planning Commission includes several parcels of land that have been designated for commercial zoning but have not gone through the legal rezoning process, a matter that concerned Mayor Jim Quinn.

"I have no doubt that these parcels will eventually be zoned commercial, but they have not been legally changed," he said. "Unless someone's paid money (for the rezoning request), signs have been posted on the property and a public hearing held to discuss it, the zoning hasn't legally changed.

"We can make the rezoning legal through this public hearing, but I'm in favor of going through the correct process before any changes are made."

Lee Planning and Engineering Director Bob Alexander said the Planning Commission understood there were still "tweaks" that would be needed on the map it recommended.

"Certainly anything that needs to be tweaked can be taken back to the Planning Commission," he said. "My understanding is that there had been no public hearing for the changes recommended on the map, as the law requires. There has been a public hearing now before the Planning Commission and there's a public hearing here tonight.

"This board can now go forward with adopting the map with amendments, if it chooses. That is your prerogative."

Councilwoman Debra Long suggested tabling the vote until all questions surrounding the map had been cleared, including claims by a group of citizens that land around Third Avenue at state Highway 195 had been rezoned commercial without any previous notice.

That motion was approved by the Council.

Prior to the public hearing, Opal Cannon recommended that the Council name Ellis, Ricket & Associates Architects and Planners of Valdosta as the firm to oversee the restoration of the historic Leesburg Depot, built just before the turn of the 20th century.

"It's been a long process -- we've been involved at least five years -- but I feel like we are getting started now," Cannon said after the Council approved her recommendation. "This project was transferred from transit to highway, and anytime something goes through that process in Washington, it ties things up.

"But we're ready to move forward now. I'm very excited. Soon we'll start looking for relics in the community that are related to the depot."

Quinn asked Cannon if a timeline had been established for work to commence, and she said, "(The architect) said they can go to work on it."

City Clerk Casey Moore suggested that the Council send a formal approval letter and then work with the architect to establish a timeline.

Also at the meeting, Engineer Ronny Dudley told the Council work was on schedule for the city's new wastewater treatment plant to go online in September. He also recommended that TTL Engineering of Albany's $14,980 bid for geotechnical monitoring of the plant be accepted.

"That's about half of what we originally planned for that work," Dudley said. "We found out, though, that EPD had relaxed the requirements a bit on reporting."

The Council also voted to offer to pay as much as $23,000 on flood elevation mapping that would keep some citizens from having to purchase expensive flood insurance. The county had offered to pay roughly half of the projected $74,000 cost of the project, but the city initially rejected that proposal, saying the county is responsible for more of the cost.

Councilwoman Judy Powell said the city should negotiate with the county to see if the project can move forward more quickly.

"We can't just say no to this," she said.