By Gail Parsons/ Effingham Herald
Guyton City Council members held a public hearing in regards to a special use permit for a manufactured home at 97 Cemetery St. just prior to its Nov. 16 meeting. During the regular meeting, the council voted 4-1 to reverse an earlier denial of the permit.
Guyton resident Josh Forbes appealed the Council’s denial saying he followed the rules and requirements that were in place when he started the process to put a manufactured home on the lot.
“In early May of 2023 I spoke to the city manager and city clerk and discussed everything I wanted to do on the lot,” he said. “I wanted to make sure that everything was okay before I started the process.”
Forbes’ project included splitting the lot, which was zoned to allow mobile homes, into two lots. On May 19, the city signed off on the new plat, he said.
“On May 23, the Guyton Planning and Zoning meeting agenda shows that … zoning requirements were changed,” he said. “I was not aware of this … at the last meeting; however, my plat was approved … prior to those zoning requirements changing.”
A public hearing was held on Sept. 26 and the special use permit he sought was denied but he believed his request would be grandfathered.
Members of the community raised concerns about the property being part of a historical district. Forbes addressed the concern by pointing out there ae no designated boundaries for the district and street already has several existing mobile homes.
Following the public hearing the council added an agenda item to later discuss and vote on the special use permit. At that time Councilman Marshall Reiser read several of the reasons the planning and zoning commission recommended denial of the request. Among the reasons were:
- · A typographical error, which gave two dates for the age of the mobile home
- · “Significant adverse impact upon value or quiet possession of surrounding properties
- · The size of the proposed use compared to surrounding properties
- · “Unusual physical characteristics of the site including the size of lot and shape of the lot topography, and soils which may tend to aggravate adverse impacts on surrounding properties
- · The ability of traffic to safely move in and out of site at proposed location.
During the discussion period, Forbes spoke of several ways to alleviate neighbors’ concerns including installing a fence, which would match that of a neighboring property and add vegetation to make the lot visually aesthetic.
The motion to approve the special use permit passed with one nay vote coming from Mayor Russell Deen.
“I'd like to state, for the record, that the question of it being grandfathered in is not a question here,” Deen said. “It was subdivided correctly, that wasn’t the question. The question we asked of our planning and zoning board and what we're asking here tonight is about a special use permit to put a manufactured home on the property. I personally … believe we should follow the lead of our planning and zoning board.”
In other business:
All other motions were approved unanimously.
- · Commission approved a Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon at Highway 17 and Third Avenue, near the antique store in the downtown area. On Deen’s request, the Georgia Department of Transportation conducted a traffic study and found a light was needed for safety.
- The Department of transportation will install the light and the city will be responsible to maintain it and provide electricity.
- · Approved $7,500 for a comprehensive financial review. During the public comment time of the meeting Jeremiah Chancey questioned the need for the review.
“Why are we spending $7,500 to hire a financial consultant?” he said. “You only hire a financial consultant if one of two things is present; one, you're in serious financial trouble; or two, you're about to acquire debt. And from reading through the agenda packet it looks like we're about to acquire some debt.”
Deen explained there is a difference between a financial advisor and an accountant. A financial advisor can help the city plan for the future. An advisor can help them find the best ways store additional funds, ways to money for expansion projects and help improve the city’s credit rating, which can lead to better bond ratings.
“That's what a financial advisor’s role is,” he said. “It's not to help the city’s finances and audit. It is for the future planning the city which is something Guyton is engaged in.”
City Manager Meketa Brown added that the city has several projects on deck, “A lot of dreams and aspirations,” she said. “A financial consultant … will perform an analysis of our projects.”
· After some discussion the council also approved a temporary moratorium on all new commercial development in the Downtown Development District.
Kaitlynn Thayer, a member of the Downtown Development Authority told the council the moratorium will not affect any current commercial buildings or businesses. It only pertains to new commercial development.
The DDA requested the moratorium to give them time to develop guidelines for future development.
Reiser, in support of the moratorium used two recent builds as an example.
“We had Parkers come in town and they did a very nice job of constructing,” he said. “And we have the Dollar General who came in town and did not mesh well with what was in existence. If we had design guidelines in place, we would have been able to suggest, or require, that certain things were done that would protect the integrity of what our city looks like and what we want it to look like.
The moratorium went into effect immediately and has a stop date of March 14. However, if the guidelines are completed sooner, it can be lifted.
· Southeastern Earth Construction LLC was awarded a bid for $246,050 for the clearing and grubbing project.
· Approved $2,000 for testing of groundwater for PFAS after some surrounding areas tested positive. PFAS stands for perfluoroalkyl or polyfluoroalkyl substances. These are chemicals found in everyday household products and used in aerospace, construction and electronic industries, among others.