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Judge rules in favor of Lee County Board of Commissioners in zoning case | COURT DOCUMENTS

Judge sides with Lee County Board of Commissioners in zoning case

Lee County Administrator Ron Rabun. (File photo)

Lee County Administrator Ron Rabun. (File photo)

Leesburg — Despite opposition from local residents, Southwestern Circuit Superior Court Judge W. James Sizemore has upheld the Lee County County Board of Commissioners’ recent decision to rezone a parcel of county-owned land in order to make way for a new concrete plant.

Plaintiffs Zachary Thaggard and Lee Farm Holdings, LLC filed a complaint in Superior Court last week seeking a temporary injunction to stop the recent rezoning of a tract of land on the west side of Mossy Dell Road adjacent to property owned by the Thaggard family.

In the complaint the plaintiffs alleged that the rezoning was not done according to proper procedure and was an example of “spot zoning.” The complaint also contends that the placement of a concrete plant on the property in question would 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.

The complaint also claimed that the board of commissioners violated the Open Meetings Act by not properly notifying the public of the called meeting where the board voted to rezone the property.

In Sizemore’s denial of the injunction, he ruled that the plaintiffs had not demonstrated “manifest abuse” of rezoning power on the part of Lee County. The ruling also states that the plaintiffs’ contention that the rezoning of the tract is spot zoning is subject to debate and that the court was “not prepared to substitute its judgment for the judgment of the Lee County Board of Commissioners as to the general propriety of zoning this particular piece of property industrial.”

The judge’s ruling further states that the plaintiffs failed to present evidence that the rezoning request would lead to “irreparable damage” to adjacent and surrounding property and that county’s decision to rezone the tract involved “fraud, corruption and abuse of power.”

Lastly, Sizemore ruled that the Board of Commissioners did not violate the Open Meetings Act notifying the public of the special called meeting where the rezoning action took place, as was contended by the plaintiff.

When reached for comment County Administrator Ron Rabun said he was pleased with the judge’s ruling and felt it established the validity of the county board’s action.

“The judge ruled that there was no imminent threat to the Thaggard property from the rezoning or location of a concrete mixing plant,” said Rabun. “The judge also ruled that the county commission did not abuse its zoning discretion. The board acted appropriately and within its discretionary powers.”

Representatives for the Thaggard’s could not be reached as of press time, but the plaintiffs can continue to fight the rezoning request as the complaint brought last week was merely for a temporary stay.

When asked about the possibility of further legal proceedings Rabun said he felt like Sizemore’s ruling gave the county a strong position.

“The first round was successful for Lee County,” Rabun said. “We’re on strong legal footing.”

For his part, Leesburg Redi-Mix owner Brian Bridges, who was prepared to purchase the property in question once it was rezoned for industrial use, said the judge’s ruling did not change his decision to look for other potential locations for the concrete plant elsewhere in the county.

“Nothing’s changed,” Bridges said Thursday. “I’ve moved on as of now. I’m still actively going after another piece of property.”

Bridges said he is currently looking closely at another, unnamed piece of property in the county, but has not made a final decision on it either.

“We have (located a potential site) but I’m not sure about it yet,” said Bridges.

Bridges said his earlier position of locating the plant in Lee County has also not changed and that he is still committed to doing business in Lee County.

“My heart’s in Lee County,” said Bridges.