Originally created 01/19/00

Officials closer to land plan

The Columbia County Commission took its first steps Tuesday toward a 90-day ban on developing some odd-shaped pieces of property.

The moratorium would be aimed at lots four times deeper then they are wide -- referred to as "flagpole" or "airstrip" lots by county officials. It would not include lots that are 300 feet wide or wider.

"With a growing county like ours, you have to make adjustments," Commissioner Barry Fleming said. "The intent is not to harm anyone but simply a concern to have good development in Columbia County."

The county began considering the moratorium after seeing a proposed development by Tiger Inc. The company's Clary Cut Road project featured 23 lots -- most of them 150 feet wide and 1,400 feet or more deep. The company's owner, Otis Askin, has since agreed to recast his plans by drawing the lots in accordance with the proposed moratorium.

"He's willing to change," said William J. Williams, an attorney representing Tiger and Mr. Askin. "I would hope, even without that concession, you would see the error of adopting a moratorium when there is no crisis."

Nearby residents, represented at Tuesday's commission meeting by attorney Bill Trotter, have vehemently protested the proposed development.

"None of the residents who live on Clary Cut Road and are opposed to this development are opposed to development in this county," he said. "What they ask for is responsible development."

Mr. Williams said the development conforms to the county's zoning ordinance.

"The devil is not in Mr. Askin. The devil is in the ordinance," he said.

That loophole, as Mr. Fleming called it, is the main reason for the ordinance. If all goes as planned, the proposed moratorium will be discussed during a Feb. 17 public hearing before being forwarded to the full commission.

The measure would have to be presented to commissioners twice -- Feb. 21 and March 7 -- before it is enacted.

During the moratorium -- which would be lifted June 5 -- the county planning and zoning department would look at how other counties deal with similar problems.

"This does not change the law tonight, but it gives a cooling off period," Mr. Fleming said.

In other business, commissioners approved CCI Construction of Evans to build the county's courthouse annex for $10,739,000. Officials say they hope the project will be completed by October 2001 and are tentatively planning a groundbreaking ceremony for next month.

Reach Jason B. Smith at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 115.


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