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Leesburg Council says no to FEMA flood study costs

LEESBURG -- The Leesburg City Council voted at its monthly meeting Tuesday night not to participate in funding a FEMA flood study unless the Lee County Commission provides more of the cost of the study.

Told by Lee Planning and Engineering Director Bob Alexander that the county had committed to paying $37,559 of the expected $74,400 cost of the study, which would determine if houses that have never flooded should be in the FEMA-developed flood plane and their owners forced to buy flood insurance, Councilman Steve Kitchens immediately made a motion that the city not participate in financing the study under the county's proposal.

Asked during discussion to explain his motion, Kitchens said, "Yes, this plan impacts Leesburg, but it impacts Lee County a whole lot more. I think the county should up its share."

Mayor Jim Quinn told the Council he supported Kitchens' motion.

"Mr. Kitchens' point is that some of the houses (affected) are in Leesburg, but all of them are in Lee County," Quinn said. "(The County Commission) may be as ticked off as we are and come back and do nothing, or they could make an offer (of more funding) that is more reasonable."

When the Council voted unanimously to support Kitchens' motion, Quinn asked if there was an acceptable amount of the study the body would feel comfortable committing to. No figure was discussed.

Just before the Council went into executive session to discuss pending litigation, Quinn said the county is ultimately responsible for funding the study.

"The study needs to be done, and we need to pay a fair percentage of the cost," he said. "But even though FEMA came to us (with the changes in the map), the county is responsible for the study."

Alexander told the Council 60 houses impacted by the FEMA change are in the Leesburg city limits, 20 are in unincorporated portions of the county and eight are in Smithville.

Prior to the map study vote, the Council approved a rezoning request by developer Lee Cheshire for 7.578 acres of land along Georgia Highway 195 from R-1 (single family) to C-1 (neighborhood business district). Cheshire said he planned to build three-bedroom duplexes and a small neighborhood shopping center on the property.

After a public hearing on the matter, the Council voted for the request.

"I will say this about Lee Cheshire: His word is his bond," Councilman Bob Wilson said. "He has been nothing but an asset to Leesburg."

The Council also voted to approve Alexander's recommendation that it adopt a 75-day moratorium on new signs in the city until a countywide ordinance could be drawn up to account for "unenforceable and ambiguous" portions of the county's current sign ordinance.