By Jonna Spelbring Priester
After the conclusion of Monday night's Henry County Planning and Zoning Commission's Board of Adjustments meeting, Vice Chairman Dennis Yeary put his left forefinger to his temple, and 'fired.'
It was a gesture of frustration following a nearly two-hour long meeting that, for the fifth time, brought the Hillz-N-Hollarz off-road vehicle park before the board. Property manager Joe Lawson filed for a second conditional use permit for the park in January. The initial permit was suspended for violations of the permit conditions.
Those violations, according to a letter sent from Planning and Zoning to Lawson and his parnter, and the property owner, Fred Snider, included: a special event was held without prior approval, tresspassing issues, operating beyond permitted hours, late insurance, maps not being presented to the Planning and Zoning office, and "gates."
The end result was little more than a standard motion to table the application so the applicants could provide more information. By tabling the motion, the Board of Adjustments rescheduled Lawson and Snider for its March meeting. The two already were on the March agenda to revisit the suspension of the initial permit.
About 150 people attended the meeting, but just four from the floor spoke.
Property owner Fred Snider approached the issue first, saying many of the people there were friends who simply enjoyed four-wheeling. Though he was asked to make a presentation about the conditional use application, Snider said little about the new application and that he hoped the board would consider shortening the 60-day suspension of Hillz-N-Hollarz's original permit.
"(We) would like to be reinstated as quick as possible," Snider said during his comments. "We would thank you very much for it."
Later in the meeting, Lawson and Snider confirmed that not all of the violations established at the January meeting had been corrected, including the installment of gates at what the board has repeatedly called "points of confusion."
The new application itself became a point of confusion for members of the board and attorney Josh Clubb, all of whom assumed Lawson and Snider applied for a new permit, not a rehash of the old one.
Yeary asked Snider if he wanted a new permit. "We will take what we had," Snider replied.
"So what you're asking (is for) this conditional use to be exactly the same as the first conditional use," Yeary responded. "I'm not sure how this needs to be addressed. I assumed this was a new conditional use permit request."
Snider said he and Lawson were asking for more time to correct the alleged violations.
A visibly frustrated Yeary indicated what Snider requested was "basically what we went over last month. A lot of this would be covering the same ground we covered a month ago."
"That"s why I'm here, to close it out," Snider responded. "No hard feelings or nothing.
"We're here tonight on friendly terms and honest terms to tell the zoning board, to tell the people, that we'd like to run this business as honest and straight as possible."
When pressed about the initial permit's violations, Snider said the gates could be installed this week "if someone comes and tells us it's OK."
It was then that Yeary turned his attention to Lawson.
"Do you understand the issue, Mr. Lawson? You filed for a new conditional use permit," he said. "To address that or to deal with that, that would supercede or suspend any previous conditional use permit. We would have to wipe the slate clean. And what we expected tonight was a new proposal from Hillz-N-Hollarz, 'This is what we'd like to do, this is what we have done.'"
An hour into the meeting, Clubb said there appeared to be two choices at hand - proceed with the new application, or proceed with the January decision to suspend the permit.
"Forget this now," Snider responded, "provided that we can go on with the fixed allegations."
"So now you're saying that you don't really want a new application," Yeary asked.
"We don't need any ... if we fix the allegations that we've got," Snider responded.
Lawson, who had not planned to speak, was sworn in moments later when Yeary, again, questioned the new application. Lawson maintained that he never received written notice of how to fix the allegations, while Yeary and Planning and Zoning Administrator Greg Derossett said Lawson turned down an opportunity to receive the recommended corrections following the January meeting.
The board also indicated that it felt Lawson was well aware of the problems, and exactly how to fix them.
Yeary finally asked if Lawson intended to present a new conditional use permit application. Lawson asked Clubb what that would do to the current conditional use permit. Clubb said that in his opinion, a new permit would supercede the old one.
After asking for the specific statute that would indicate that, Lawson said, "With all due respect, I need law, not opinion."
The exchanges continued, and revisited Lawson's contention that he never received written notification of how to correct the violations.
West, who made the motion in January to suspend the Hillz-N-Hollarz permit addressed that particular claim, bluntly.
"I made the motion ... and every part of that motion contains a solution," he said.
"I would think some of the burden in this situation falls upon the applicant."
After a brief recess, the board returned and asked Lawson if he wanted to proceed with the application or table it until the next meeting. Lawson agreed to table the application, and the board unanimously approved a motion to do so.
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