Dougherty Commission finalizes millage rate hike

Dougherty County Commissioners, from left, Ewell Lyle, Gloria Gaines and Anthony Jones listen to speakers on a rezoning issue during the commission’s regular session Monday. (Staff Photo: Terry Lewis)

ALBANY — It’s not unusual for county commissions to get into zoning squabbles between neighborhoods and developers. It is unusual, however, for the arguments to keep going after the commission has unanimously approved a rezoning request.

That was the case Monday during the commission’s regular session.

In July, the commission approved a request from applicant Bharatkumar Patel and owner Jesus Christ Tabernacle of Deliverance Church to rezone 2.676 acres from R-2 (single-family residential district) to C-1 (neighborhood mixed-use business district). The property is located at the southwest intersection of North County Line Road and Hill Road.

The problem is the area’s residents thought a church would be built on the property, but found out later that the site would be used for a convenience store. Once that became common knowledge, the neighborhood inundated District 6 County Commissioner Anthony Jones with phone calls claiming they had not gotten proper notice of the then-rezoning proposal.

“We followed the Zoning Procedures Act, held a public hearing and no one showed up to voice opposition,” Jones said at the time. “So I thought they wanted a store there. What I want now is for us to have a sit-down with everybody involved in this, much like a town hall meeting.”

Some residents at Monday’s session complained the rezoning notification signs were too small, fell down easily or they were not notified at all.

“We moved out to the country to get out of the city,” one resident said. “We didn’t move here to have a convenience store 150 feet from my house.”

Planning Director Paul Forgey said the county had followed all proper procedures and had followed state law.

“The decision is everything was done properly,” Forgey said. “You have to do that because if we go beyond the rules, that’s when you get into trouble.

County Attorney Spencer Lee said the decision cannot be rescinded according to law.

“We followed normal procedures in a zoning matter,” Lee said. “Residents of the neighborhood need to contact the owner of the property and the applicant, because right now I can’t advise the commission to get involved in it.”

Jones was still unhappy.

“We need to review this ordinance or we’ll have the same thing happen over and over again,” he said.

In action items at the meeting, the commission:

— Approved the required resolution providing for approval of the Georgia Fund 1 resolutions updating the authorized personnel for Ga. Fund 1 accounts;

— Approved the payment of two invoices from Tetra Tech in the amount of $246,199.56. The services rendered are for debris monitoring;

— Approved a resolution providing for the annual agreement with Turner Job Corps and Dougherty County outlining the assistance of the Dougherty County Police Department in performing law enforcement duties;

— Named Michara Delanay to the Keep Albany-Dougherty Beautiful board;

— Approved a resolution providing for the acceptance of a quit-claim deed from Louza Associates LLLP to Dougherty County for the purpose of providing for the construction of a cul-de-sac on Grand Cypress Lane;

— Formally approved the 3-mill tax hike for the countywide general fund, and special services district fund.

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Education writer and jack of all trades with The Albany Herald.