No more exceptions on county rezoning fees and no refund to the members of a Grovetown church.
That was the result of a vote by Columbia County commissioners Tuesday night, who agreed unanimously to no longer allow exceptions in who must pay rezoning fees and to not return $535 paid to the county recently by Water Branch Baptist Church on Wrightsboro Road.
After the decision, commission Chairman Ron Cross stated that although a refund wasn't being approved, commissioners do have a discretionary fund that can be used for charitable organizations and the $535 could perhaps come from there, should a commissioner agree to do so.
Commissioner Lee Anderson said he would refund the fee from his discretionary fund.
After the meeting, church member Luther Wilson Jr. said he wasn't happy with the board's decision, saying a refund was in order and that money shouldn't come from another source.
"I still don't like it. It's still not fair," Wilson said, adding that the county's process was flawed. "... That's not what we wanted. We want fairness."
At issue is how exemptions of some county fees have been applied to nonprofit organizations. Sometimes the fees have been charged; other times they've been waived. Water Branch Baptist Church in Grovetown recently was rezoned from Residential-Agriculture to Special-1, a typical zoning for churches, and charged a rezoning fee of $535. The rezoning was required by the county because the church was looking to enlarge its facility.
The problem is that the church had been zoned R-A since the 1980s; members said they were never notified of that incorrect zoning.
They contend the church should have been zoned S-1 from the beginning, and that it's a mistake that should have been corrected by the county at no charge.
The church also learned that some churches - those that know how to request an exemption - are not charged a rezoning fee. Water Branch members realized this after paying their fee and then requested a refund.
Admitting the county's policy was inconsistent for such fees, Commissioner Diane Ford asked that the matter be sent back to a committee for further study. That request didn't receive support and the vote to no longer allow exemptions or grant a refund was then approved unanimously.
In other action at Tuesday's commission meeting, board members agreed to put the county's closed landfill off Baker Place Road out to bid.
County officials said there has been outside interest in a possible purchase of the landfill, adding that if a group bought the land it would assume the liability of capping it and monitoring but also could later have residential or commercial development there.
If the landfill were to be sold, it could save the county nearly $10 million in funds that it would use to conduct its own capping and monitoring of the site.
Board members also agreed to again start having quarterly meetings in the Appling Courthouse.
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