A series of public hearings during the Dec. 17 meeting of the Gadsden County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) brought a large number of citizens out to express concerns on a number of issues. The item of greatest debate was a proposed amendment to land development regulations.
In 2007, the BoCC amended a section of the land development regulations that enabled family members to deed a minimum of 1 acre of land to other immediate family members, to be used only as a homestead property. This amendment, known as the immediate family exception, was allowed to sunset in 2008 and hadn’t been used since.
At the Dec. 17 meeting, many citizens addressed the board regarding a proposal to renew the family exception.
“The law is intended to divide land among immediate family members to live there; it doesn’t work that way,” said Diane Sheffield, a Quincy resident and longtime member of the planning and zoning board. “Over and over again we would have people not wanting to homestead their property but sell it. To me it’s contrary to responsible growth management.”
The BoCC was divided on the issue with Commissioners Brenda Holt, Sherrie Taylor and Chairman Eric Hinson in favor of passing the amendment.
“People are crying now because they have 9 acres of land and cannot deed it to families to use,” said Holt. “One fellow I know has 27 acres of land and cannot deed it to his children.”
Holt also echoed Taylor’s and Hinson’s wishes to hold workshops on the issue. Commissioners Gene Morgan and Doug Croley were opposed to the amendment moving forward.
“I think there is a valid argument for both sides,” said Morgan. “But what I’ve heard consistently is that the potential problems far outweigh the benefits on this issue.”
In the end, the amendment was approved with a 3-2 vote with Morgan and Croley dissenting.
In other business, the BoCC revisited the issue of accepting non-maintained roads into the county road system so that they can be maintained by the public works department. At previous meetings Taylor had expressed her desire to see private dirt roads be accepted into the county to be paved and maintained by the public works department.
It had been previously decided that the budget for the public works department did not allow for the paving of these roads but during the Dec. 17 meeting, the BoCC discussed the possibility of the county maintaining the existing dirt roads. Taylor expressed disappointment at the proposal.
“This is not what I wanted; this is not what they (citizens in district 5) wanted either,” said Taylor. “They want the dirt gone; they want pavement.”
County Administrator Robert Presnell reiterated the lack of funding for paving.
“Given the current funding for public works there is no way to do that,” he said.
The commission voted 4-1 to investigate the necessary legal requirements for accepting non-maintained roads into the county system to be maintained as dirt roads. Morgan voted against this.
Other county business:
* The BoCC presented Presnell with an award for his 15 years of service to the county.
* The board voted to hold a workshop regarding an amendment to the development standards of communication towers. The amendment would change the regulation on how close together cell towers are built.