Originally created 11/30/02

Zoning ordinance is unfair, brothers say



As children, Roger Kight remembers his older brother Jimmy Kight looking out for him.

Jimmy Kight, now 67, is ill and lives alone, and his brother is ready to be the caregiver.

This summer, Roger Kight, who is 60, pulled a camper-trailer onto his three-acre lot next to his house in Blythe. Having his brother nearby in the camper-trailer suited both men.

"I feel better having him close so I can check on him," Roger Kight said.

Jimmy Kight can still maintain his independence even though he suffers from chronic obstruction pulmonary disease and relies on an oxygen machine for breathing support.

Although the new living situation works for the Kights, it doesn't work for the city of Blythe.

City officials have informed the Kights that placing the camper-trailer violates a zoning ordinance that prohibits having more than one residential structure on the lot.

Having gone through what he feels are proper channels, Roger Kight said that in August he requested a variance or special medical hardship permit from Blythe City Council, to exempt him from the ordinance restriction.

It was denied, and Roger Kight feels the council kept the $150 variance fee, even though they knew all along it would be rejected.

"I just think we're being treated unfairly," Jimmy Kight said. Roger Kight said he wants his brother near to assist him with feeding needs and to help him monitor his medications.

Fearing retribution toward his brother from city officials, Jimmy Kight moved his camper-trailer back to his south Augusta house Wednesday.

On Nov. 18, Roger Kight said he received a letter from the city telling him to remove the camper-trailer in 30 days.

If the camper isn't removed by the deadline, further legal steps would follow to resolve the matter, said Mike Arrington, the city attorney.

"Looks like by Dec. 17 something has to happen," Roger Kight said. "I told my brother, 'Don't give up. We'll continue to fight."'

To attract public attention to the ordinance restriction, Roger Kight made a sign reading: "Blythe's mayor and city council are unfair to the elderly and the handicapped."

The sign is in the bed of Roger Kight's pickup, parked in front of his two-story house at Church and Gin House streets.

Some of his neighbors don't see any problems with the camper-trailer.

Hazel Gay and husband Jimmy Gay, who retired from the Army, have lived on Church Street for 30 years.

"It's not a problem," Mrs. Gay said. "It's on their property, and it isn't costing the city. Rules were made, but they can also be bent."

Mattie Smith, a 10-year resident, said the arrangement is needed by the family.

"If the man is sick, he has got to live somewhere," she said.

Gray Markham moved to Blythe with his wife, Marcella Markham, two years ago from Minnesota. He's still adjusting to local policy.

"All these ordinances are ridiculous. They're supposed to help people and treat people fairly," Mr. Markham said.

Two years ago, and again in 2001, the council amended some of the city's long-standing zoning regulations, which altered the R-1 or residential category, which affects the Kights, Mr. Arrington said.

The request denial is being upheld, Mr. Arrington said, because the property is zoned R-1, which prohibits more than one residential structure on the property.

"I have no problem with manufactured homes if they're on approved lots," said the attorney who has represented Blythe since 1997. "But this is for R-1 zoning, and there's already a stick-built (single-family) house on the lot."

Too often, Mayor Tom Cobb said, rural residents have an attitude of, "'This is my land, and I'll do what I want.' This impacts our entire community. Everybody."

Roger Kight said he understands policy and regulations and wants only for the city to be more amenable - at least temporarily.

"Jimmy has an oxygen problem. We moved him out here so we could feed him and watch over his medical needs."

Jimmy Kight lived in south Augusta with his wife of 47 years, Constance Kight, until she died of a viral infection in July.

Mr. Cobb said another problem is that an added structure requires a separate water meter, septic tank and adequate outdoor electrical connections.

Roger Kight said he was prepared to meet the requirements and had received an approval from the city's code inspector to install the required overhead electrical wiring.

Roger Kight said his three-bedroom house doesn't have adequate space to accommodate his brother. He and his wife have a daughter, and a third bedroom is rented out.

"Looks like by Dec. 17 something has to happen. I told my brother, 'Don't give up. We'll continue to fight."' - Roger Kight, on Blythe's zoning ordinance

Reach Timothy Cox at (706) 823-3217 or tim.cox@augustachronicle.com.