The rezoning of a tract of land on the west side of Mossy Dell Road in Leesburg, adjacent to the intersection of Mossy Dell and Maxwell Road, is now the focus of a civil complaint filed against the Lee County Board of Commissioners and the Lee County Development Authority. (Staff photo: Brad McEwen)
LEESBURG — The Lee County Board of Commissioner’s recent decision to rezone a parcel of land on Mossy Dell Road that would allow a new concrete plant to move into the county is now being challenged in court, prompting Leesburg Redi Mix owner Brian Bridges to begin looking elsewhere for a location to build the plant.
The commission voted 3-2 in late April to rezone a tract of county-owned land on the west side Mossy Dell Road behind Lee County Animal Control to C-2 Commercial to allow for the sale of the land to Bridges for the concrete plant.
The vote came after a public hearing in April where the county Planning Commission members said they would not recommend the rezoning due to concerns about spot zoning.
At that hearing, Lee County resident Erin Thaggard, whose family owns property adjacent to the parcel in question, voiced concerns over the potential use creating noise and pollution issues.
Once the rezoning request was approved, Zachary Thaggard and Lee Farm Holdings, LLC filed a civil complaint with Lee Superior Court against the Lee County Board of Commissioners and the Lee County Economic Development hoping to overturn the decision.
In the complaint, filed May 9, the plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment that the vote and the amendment to the Zoning Ordinance be ruled void or invalid.
In the complaint the plaintiffs state that not only would the proposed use constitute a nuisance and create unwanted noise, pollution, odors, smells, waste and other things that might impact the quality of the area and devalue the adjacent land, but that the approval of the re-zoning was not handled properly.
The complaint alleges that the Board of Commissioners engaged in procedural flaws resulting in a clandestine zoning vote. The plaintiffs state that the voting request was tabled at a regularly scheduled meeting of the commission and then approved at a “special called meeting” at 4 p.m. on Monday, April 28. Sufficient notice was not given to the public for the called meeting, according to the complaint.
With no time table as to when a decision will be made in regard to the complaint, Bridges, who stated time was of the essence in moving the actual plant from its current location in Charleston, SC to its eventual home, has decided to forego trying to obtain the Mossy Dell property.
“We purchased the plant in March with expectations that it was going to take 30-60 days to (have the rezoning approved),” Bridges said. “I can’t wait for this situation to resolve so I am looking at other options.”
Bridges, who has made no secret of his desire to locate the plant in Lee County, said he has met with officials in Dougherty County, but remains loyal to Lee and is looking at alternative sites throughout the county.
“Albany made some very attractive offers,” said Bridges. “My heart is in Lee County It’s been in Lee County since the beginning. This is my home.”
Lee County leaders are disappointed that the original plan to locate the plant on the Mossy Dell Road site has met with resistance, but are pleased Bridges is continuing to look at other options within the county.
County commission chairman Rick Muggridge said it was his understanding that Bridges and the county economic development authority have looked at over 15 sites throughout the county and are continuing working to find the right fit.
“We’re working hard,” Muggridge said. “I hope and pray that we will be able to find a site that works for him. I’m optimistic.”
Muggridge said the entire process of trying to rezone the property and bring the concrete plant into the community has been a learning experience and he feels as though positive things will come out of it.
“This whole thing has given us a real opportunity to look at how we interact with business,” said Muggridge. “I want us to be known as a county that does business well. I also want to do things the right way.”
Representatives and attorneys for both the plaintiffs and the defense presented their arguments to Southwestern Circuit Superior County Judge W. James Sizemore earlier this week, but no ruling has been issued.