BUTTS COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
MINUTES OF THE BOARD FOR OCTOBER 7, 2019
☐ Ken Rivers, District 1, Chairman
☐ Keith Douglas, District 4 Vice Chairman
☐ Robert Henderson, District 2
☐ Joe Brown, District 3
☐ Russ Crumbley, District 5
☐ Michael Brewer, Deputy County Administrator
☐ Ben Vaughn, County Attorney
☐ Brandon Bowen, Zoning Attorney
Section 1: Workshop Meeting
Chairman Ken Rivers called the October 7, 2019 workshop to order at 4:00 PM. The first order of business was to hear an update from the Development Authority on the ongoing project at Southern Crescent Technical College to permanently locate the Driver Services facility at the local campus using state dollars to finance and pay for construction of a permanent facility. Following this, the board heard an updated status on the cell phone tower held over from the June meeting, followed by a briefing from the Chairman of the Assessors Board on the need to outsource mapping services. Chairman Rivers then adjourned the workshop until 5PM. Upon reconvening, the Board heard a presentation from Doug Adams, a Henry County developer who is proposing a massive development of distribution centers for the northeast quadrant of Highway 16 and Interstate 75. Attorney and State Representative Andy Welch presented on behalf of the developer and proposed changes to the original submission, to include removal of the residential component of the proposal, a two-phased development approach and a road network to service the development. Following a number of questions, the workshop was adjourned at 5:49 PM.
Section 2: Regular Meeting, Preliminaries
Chairman Rivers called the October meeting to order at 6:00 PM and asked Mr. Michael Brewer to deliver the invocation and lead the pledge of allegiance.
Item 2019-10-183 Adoption of Docket
Mr. Brewer requested the removal of Item 189 from the docket; Mr. Brown requested a personnel matter be added to the Executive Session. Mr. Douglas then moved to adopt the docket, seconded by Mr. Brown with unanimous consent.
Item 2019-10-184 Approval of Minutes
Mr. Douglas moved to approve the September minutes, seconded by Mr. Henderson with unanimous consent.
Section 3: Old Business
Item 2019-06-122 Special Use for Cell Phone Tower
Under Old Business, the County took up the matter of the Southern Linc Cell Phone Tower that was first presented in June at a public hearing. According to Georgia Power officials, a compromise location has been reached and it is now before the board to approve. Upon a motion by Mr. Henderson and seconded by Mr. Brown the Special Use was approved by a vote of 5-0
Section 4: New Business
Item 2019-10-186 Public Hearing: Case 09(01)2019 Rezoning
Under new business, the Board will now take up the matter of the rezoning of approximately 2.76 acres on Brownlee Road for Mr. James Douglas Williams, who has petitioned to have his property rezoned from R-1 to AR. Following a presentation, a public hearing was convened. No one spoke in favor of or against the rezoning, which the planning commission recommended for approval. The public hearing closed and the Chairman called for a vote. Upon a motion by Mr. Douglas and seconded by Mr. Brown the rezoning was approved with unanimous consent.
Item 2019-10-187 Public Hearing: Case 09(02)2019 Rezoning
The Board took up the matter of the rezoning of approximately 1,422 acres located along Highway 16 at the northeast quadrant of Interstate 75 for the purpose of constructing distribution centers and a residential subdivision of 200+ homes. Zoning Administrator Christy Lawson presented the position of the Planning Commission, which recommended that the Board of Commissioners deny the rezoning as it was not in compliance with the approved Future Land Use Plan of Butts County and might not be a good fit for county. Following this, the developer made his presentation and then the Chairman opened up a public hearing. The first allowed to speak were those in favor. Three people arose to speak in favor of and were allotted 3:33 each to speak.
The first to speak was Attorney Byrd Garland, whose firm is representing the developer. His comments are quoted below:
“My name is Byrd Garland, and I’m an attorney here in Jackson and I’ve been here for 72 years this year and have been practicing 46 years in this community and I’m not here as an attorney. I’m here as a private citizen, I’ve been following this whole project through it from its beginning, I do not represent Mr. Adams or his company, my partner Andy Welch was employed on Friday to come and work on this development agreement and that’s him, that’s not me. I want to tell you that one of the things that I think is important here is the tax basis; this is very important. Just the other day, we had four school superintendents in a room together; Mr. Jones, Mr. Hutcheson, our new school superintendent Mr. Simpson and the school superintendent for Monroe County. Monroe County is number 11 in the state school-wise and you can believe from this point forward, there’s going to be a lot of collaboration between the community, the county commission, the school board, the cities and the school board, but it boiled down to one thing…money. Now what ya’ll do with your taxes and all, and what you do with developments in this community, impact the school because it broadens the school, your tax base. Schools are limited in how much tax they can have, and the more development you have, this 20 million dollars they’ll have coming in here, about half of that can go to the schools and just think what that would do. In my practice I do a lot of real estate closings; on Friday, I had a person in there buying property at the lake and when it came down to the part about tax prorations, and they said “you know, we almost didn’t come to Butts County because your taxes are so high” and the real estate agents involved said “that’s the common thing we hear and the only reason these people came is because they absolutely fell in love with the house at the lake”. They made it clear they would have not come otherwise. We gotta do something about our taxes; we’re a small county, we don’t have a lot of population, we don’t have much in the way of industry, we don’t have much in the way of jobs…we’ve got this coming…Wall Street money…that’s what’s gone come. It’s not just money out of Doug Adams’s pocket…he’s got some very deep pockets but they aren’t that deep….Wall Street money’s coming and let me tell you, when Wall Street money comes, you’ve got something you can take to the bank. Now I’m going to let Mr. [Bill] Jones talk about it”
The next to speak in favor of the rezoning was Mayor Kay Pippin of Jackson. Her comments are quoted below”
Good evening gentlemen…I wasn’t sure I was going to speak to this tonight until I sat and heard some of the things said here tonight. Many of you know that I ran the Chamber in Henry [County] for several years and it used to amaze me that the people that would line up that talked about estate lots, everybody’s got to have an acre, we don’t want density, etc. and at that point in history it cost a million dollars to build one mile of road in Henry County, so those people that lived on that road could not pay enough tax to build the road in front of their house, let alone pay for the police and the fire and the schools and all the other infrastructure that went into having a community, somebody has to pay the piper. We need new services, we need new resources, excuse me, for taxation in this community, we’re maxed out and you know that. My city has not had a property tax in 44 years and I struggle every single day to watch that budget to maintain that legacy, and I don’t do it because it wouldn’t be unpopular to levy a tax, I do it because if I have to add ten more mils to the 29 that you and the school system are now levying, there are many many people in my city who simply could not afford their tax bill. It would not be a possibility. Salaries will always go up; employee benefits will always go up, we have to have to have fire trucks, we have to have police cars, we have to pay workers comp, we have to pave roads…all of that is going to constantly increase over time, you know that. There has to be some other way to help pay for this other than continuing to go to the people in this room and others like us for taxation to pay for it. If we are not growing, we are dying; that is absolutely a fact of economics in this world. I want you to know that even I believe even you are borrowing money through a tax anticipation note at the end of summer to pay your bills til the taxes come in. If you had a viable economic base, you wouldn’t be in that position of having to borrow money to keep your employees working until some taxes start to roll in. I admire the fact that you are setting standards. You know, when that referendum passed to bring package liquor stores to the City of Jackson, I scrambled and I passed an ordinance that said “Ok public, if you vote for this, here’s what we’re going to have…we’re going to have one store…we’re going to have two stores for population of 10,000 and no more until we reach to that point, you’re going to have 6000 square feet, you’re going to have half a million dollars worth of inventory, and guess what…the customers came to do just those things…so I admire you for setting the standards high, we deserve that and you should do that, but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are 159 counties in this state and 158 of em would love to be in your position tonight. You can make demands because these people want something and we can set our standards high and make it work for us at well. Are you aware that twenty-four…I hear a lot of talk about “well I don’t want to be Henry County, I wish we never had to have another piece of pavement, I wish we could all ride bicycles and be in horse and buggies but it’s just not the reality of where we are. The bottom line is 24% of the Henry County tax digest, it comes off of industrial base; in this county, 3% comes off the industrial base, think about that. Thank you. One last thing if you can humor me, its over $6 million dollars in one mil; I tried to find out what ours was today but couldn’t get that information, it was about $600 thousand. [At this point the Chairman called time and the remarks were concluded].
The next to speak in favor of the rezoning was local businessman Bill Jones. His comments are quoted below:
“Byrd and Kay have said it as well as you can say it…I go to the…I’m one of the charter members of the Rotary Club here in Jackson Georgia. This spring I woke up one morning and thought “well whose going to do the program today and lo and behold it was me and I said well I need to throw something together here to fill out my responsibility here today and I got to thinking about what I might say and do for a program that would hopefully keep the attention of the people there in the audience, and I started and I completed a little journey of the experiences that I’ve observed in my tenure as a local business fellow and numerous other roles here, and we have observed a number of things that have gone on in Butts County over the last 30 plus years, and we’ve seen some good opportunities come and go, some of which I thought were ridiculous to turn down, still do think were ridiculous for us to turn down, but we nevertheless did it, and I told the audience, I said we have a tendency in this community to, when we have a good opportunity, we raise our foot carefully and take careful aim at it and shoot it, you see, and I’ve seen us do that more than one time on numerous projects here along the way, not the least of which is the one that we’re in conflict with now here called this landfill. This would have been a golden opportunity for this community to really capitalize on some revenue that was and is being produced, but we thought better of it. One comment was we didn’t have anybody locally that could manage such a project and so forth, I mean little comments like that that really just defeated a good opportunity that we had back at the time. We had a little river running up in the north end of the county, a little river called Tussahaw. Henry County wanted to build a reservoir up there and of course they invited us to share and partner with us on that thing…the conventional wisdom…we don’t want it in our county…and guess what…we got the whole reservoir in our county today and we get nothing out of it you know, we don’t even get the taxes that could be generated there…but those, and I’ve looked at this project and it is probably the biggest one I’ve seen come along in my tenure here and there are parts of it I probably would, if I had the unilateral decision to make, a decision about what to do and what not to do, I’d probably scuttle some of it…but overall it represents a big opportunity for this community and I think we need to deliberate carefully on it and look at it and look at the things that really benefit our community and pick and choose but don’t push your whole thing aside like we’ve had, we’ve seen with the previous board that looked at this [planning commission]. I’d recommend that we study it carefully but at the end of the day, let’s take advantage of what’s being offered us. Thank you”.
The next allowed to speak were those in opposition. Two people arose to speak against and were allotted 5 minutes apiece to speak. The first to speak in opposition was local citizen Mark Ausette and his comments are quoted below:
“My name is Mark Ausette, I’ve been in Butts County for a couple of years, literally two years, grew up in McDonough Georgia. I’m not here to say one way or another yes or no, I feel like the last gentleman that spoke and said ‘lets take some careful consideration onto this’….I left McDonough because it became too busy, it became…it became unsuitable to go to the interstate to go to the grocery store, to go the parts store, to go anywhere because it would take 30 minutes to go five miles, and that’s…I’m not sure if anybody goes to Henry County or McDonough but it is tough to go and drive through….several of my friends are looking at relocating to Butts County and by doing this large construction, new development, I really think you’re going to change the quality of life that we have in Butts County. Butts County is beautiful from one end to the other, north south east and west..it’s beautiful….I saw how McDonough changed and I’m going to see, hopefully, Butts County do something different between the infrastructure and the roads, traffic lights, school systems…I remember going through a school system, the county was growing faster than the school system. What that looked like was trailers…you build a brand new school and you automatically have trailers sitting outside…I don’t know how much a school costs but I think it was a little unreasonable to be a couple of years behind the development of your school system and have your children sitting in trailers…so I’m just looking at this as please think about what we’re doing, be ready for the development, have a plan for the travelling, the infrastructure, for the schools traffic-wise. I’m at Joe Lane and 16 and pulling out right now takes five minutes to pull out right now in the mornings going to work. What’s that going to look like when we have a development over there? Are we going to have traffic lights? Are we going to have roundabouts? I mean the accidents that we see at High Falls and 16 right now, I mean its every week and it might as well be almost every day. I’m sure some people are seeing what I’m seeing out there. What’s it going to do? Your quality of life is going to change when we bring in a development like this, and yes, tax money might come…and if you have a problem paying taxes in this county…I don’t have any problem paying taxes in this county, I think that the tax rate is the same if not better than it was in Henry County. I’ve been a land owner in Henry County for five or ten years, I don’t see any issue and my question would be, would they go down if we have this new economic development over there with Fortune 500, Wall Street money, so I would like everyone to look at this and proceed with caution…that’s all I’m asking, and when you do, I’m not saying yes or no but when you’ve seen what happened in Henry County…thank you.
The last to speak in opposition was Mr. Wade Barron and his comments are quoted below:
“My name is Wade Barron. I live off Joe Lane Road right across the street from this development. Just like the gentleman before me said, I’m not here to say yes or no…I know we’re going to have to have growth in the county but at the same time, what about the people, what about the population that are already here? I’ve lived in Butts County for twenty years and I left Henry County for the exact same reason, because of the growth, the traffic…and we’ve heard from lawyers, we’ve heard from developers, we’ve heard from a number of people, but nobody’s mentioned the additional crime that growth brings. I’m pretty sure that Sheriff Long and everybody else in the county is worried about bringing in 5000 more jobs, bringing in 200 and something homes worth in population…they’re going to have to cover this, they’re going to have to protect us from these potential crimes. Traffic is one issue, granted, it’s like the gentleman said, trying to pull out on 16 in the morning to go to work is a nightmare, but at the same time you add in all the exponential trucks to traffic, the potential new homes that are even considered…I understand that we’ve got to have tax revenue, I understand, you know, there’s an opportunity…but at the same time, do we need 19 new warehouses? Are we going to look like Locust Grove? Are we going to look like Henry County South? Consider these things. I know we heard all these big numbers talking about “we’re going to bring in millions and millions of tax revenue dollars, we’re going to bring in all these jobs”…what about the people that are already here, the people who voted to put the Board in place that are here today? Not saying one way or another, either or…but please, consider the people that are already here…you can count on us, we’re here, we’re paying taxes, we’re voting. You’re looking at something in the potential future that these jobs that come in, how many are actually going to be Butts County residents, that are going to take a new job at a warehouse, driving a forklift for $15.00 an hour? There might a few, but most of them are going to come from Spalding County, most of them are going to come from Henry County, most of them are from Monroe and Lamar…they’re going to swarm in here and use our resources and not pay property taxes. Please consider these facts…that’s all I’m asking.
With no further comments, the Chairman declared the public hearing closed and following discussion, called for a vote. Mr. Crumbley offered a motion that the Board of Commissioners accept the recommendation of the planning and zoning commission to deny the request. Mr. Rivers seconded the motion and called for a vote, which failed 3-2 with Mr. Crumbley and Mr. Rivers voting in favor of the motion and Mr. Brown, Mr. Henderson and Mr. Douglas voting in dissent.
Mr. Brown then moved that we table a decision on the zoning tonight, have people on both sides [developer and County] to come up with a developmental plan to do what the board has given them guidance to do, and to do so as soon as possible. Mr. Douglas seconded the motion and it passed unanimously.
Item 2019-10-188 Resolution Appointing a Mobile Home Inspector
Mr. Brewer introduced CR201927, to appoint a Mobile Home Inspector for Butts County in accordance with a new state law, said resolution enabling the appointment of both County Building Inspectors to the position and to carry forward to their successors in the future. Upon a motion by Mr. Douglas and a second by Mr. Brown, the resolution was adopted with unanimous consent. The resolution is made a part of the Book of Resolutions, Volume 1.
Item 2019-10-189 Approval of Contract for Mapping Services for Assessor’s Office
Charles Brodie, Chairman of the Board of Assessors presented a proposal to the board to approve a contract for mapping services with Schneider Geospatial for mapping. The contract will run from January through June of 2019, allowing the existing cartographer to work with the department through the transitional period and then can potentially retire fully with the new company taking over the responsibilities July 1 of 2020. Upon a motion by Mr. Douglas and seconded by Mr. Brown, the motion was approved with unanimous consent.
Item 2019-10-190 Approval to Seek Trauma Grant for Emergency Services
Fire Chief Mike Wilson is before the board to request permission to seek a trauma grant for Emergency Services. Upon a motion by Mr. Henderson and seconded by Mr. Douglas, the approval was granted with unanimous consent.
Item 2019-10-191 Approval to Seek Atlanta Hawks Sports Grant for Leisure Services
Leisure Services Director Mary Lynn Overbey is before the board to request permission to seek a sports grant from the Atlanta Hawks. Upon a motion by Mr. Crumbley and seconded by Mr. Douglas, the approval was granted with unanimous consent.
Item 2019-10-192 Financial Report
Chief Financial Officer Rhonda Blissit noted that with 25% of the fiscal year completed, the County has collected 28% of anticipated revenues and has expended 21%, meaning that spending is under budget.
Item 2019-10-193 Governmental Updates
Deputy Administrator Michael Brewer reported that the County is looking at pricing for replacing three solid waste compactors that are no longer functional or badly in need of replacement; that the Safety Committee is meeting on a quarterly basis under the guidance and direction of Ellen Glidewell in the HR division and that SPLOST projects are on track. The November meeting will not be held on the 11th but on the 4th due to Veterans Day.
Section 5: Concluding Business
Item 2019-10-194 Executive Session for Personnel, Litigation and Real Estate
With a need for Executive Session to discuss litigation, personnel and real estate, the board entered this upon a motion by Mr. Crumbley and seconded by Mr. Douglas with unanimous consent. The regular portion of the meeting was in recess during the session. Upon a motion by Mr. Douglas and seconded by Mr. Brown, the Board later reconvened the meeting.
Item 2019-10-195 Attorney Report
County Attorney Ben Vaughn notified the public of the general content of the Executive Session which included evaluation of one employee, three pending litigation matters and one discussion of acquiring a property.
Item 2019-10-196 Adjournment Motion
With no public comment applied for, Mr. Douglas made a motion to adjourn the October meeting, seconded by Mr. Brown with unanimous consent. The Commission stands in recess until November 4th unless the need to recall into session presents itself.
To be Ratified the 4th Day of November, 2019