County Manager Ron Rabun briefs commissioners on the rezoning on Mossy Dell Road that would house a concrete plant. (Staff photo: Danny Carter)
LEESBURG — Lee County commissioners voted Tuesday to table a rezoning matter that could result in a new concrete plant coming to the county.
Action was delayed after Commissioner Greg Frich expressed his philosophical concerns about selling land that was previously taken from a Lee property owner through eminent domain and later selling it for commercial purposes.
The delay was approved by a 3-2 vote when it became apparent that commissioners were not certain if the property was seized through eminent domain or if it was a voluntary transaction. Frich said he understood the land was taken in 1995 through eminent domain, but that the owner was cooperative and did not oppose the deal.
County Attorney Jimmy Skipper is expected to research the issue and report back to the commission.
Lee Redi Mix, a new business, hopes to build a new concrete plant on the five acres located along Mossy Dell Road if the land is rezoned from AG (agriculture) to I-2 (heavy industrial). Brian Bridges is the owner.
Frich said the land was originally obtained for use as a landfill.
“I have a hard time with government making an acquisition through imminent domain and then sometime downstream decades later deciding to do something different with the land,” Frich said. “I believe the original purpose was a good purpose, but that is the limit of our authority.
“I know we have juris prudence to back us up, but, fundamentally, if the original purpose is not fulfilled, I believe it should go back to the original landowner at the original sale price.”
Frich said his concerns are based solely on property rights and not because he opposes the concrete plant or that he is concerned about the impact of a concrete plant at the location.
Commission Vice Chairman Dennis Roland made a motion to deny the rezoning “based on the simple fact that the zoning committee recommended denial.” The motion was seconded by Frich.
Before a vote could be taken on Roland’s motion, Commissioner Ed Duffy made a motion to table the issue until details concerning the original transaction in 1995 can be researched. Duffy’s motion was seconded by Commissioner Luke Singletary and supported by Chairman Rick Muggridge.
County Manager Ron Rabun said staff recommended the rezoning. He said concerns about noise at the concrete plant had been satisfied, in his opinion, following a decibel study. He recommended the rezoning be approved contingent on the Georgia Environmental Protection Division issuing a permit.
Several opponents of the rezoning appeared at a public hearing two weeks ago to oppose the issue based primarily on noise and environmental and health issues.
In the meantime, the commission is awaiting a report from Skipper. If the land was acquired through eminent domain, Frich appears set to oppose the deal, with support from Roland.
If the land was acquired by other methods, Frich still has issues to resolve.
“If it was a regular deal, can we buy land and sell for a profit?” he asked.
Rabun said the land is now titled to the Lee County Development Authority.
“I think the only question now is, is this rezoning appropriate?” Rabun said.