Pike County Times

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PO Box 843, Zebulon, Georgia 30295. You can donate through PayPal at the link on the bottom of the page. Becky Watts: Phone # 770-468-7583 editor(@)pikecountytimes.com
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A copy of the Bill of Rights and Constitution of the United States, a copy of the old ordinances, and a copy of the new ordinances.
Pike County Board of Commissioners Workshop
Tuesday, August 29, 2023 - 4 p.m.
Courthouse, Main Courtroom, 16001 Barnesville Street, Zebulon, Georgia

ZEBULON - Members of the Pike County Board of Commissioners and the Pike County Planning and Zoning Board met from 4 to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, August 29, 2023 prior to the Pike County Commission Meeting at 6:30 with the 6:15 Town Hall Meeting.

Here is an overview of the changes that Gilbert gave to the commissioners and Planning and Zoning Board members at the August 10, 2023 meeting: http://pikecountytimes.com/secondary/proposedordinancesoverview8.10.23.2nd.pdf.

http://pikecountytimes.com/secondary/2023proposedordinances8.10.23.html has a copy of the proposed ordinances.

Here is a link to the proposed zoning districts map: pikecountytimes.com/secondary/PikeCharacterAreaMap8.29.23.2nd.pdf.

The 7 to p.m. August 10, 2023 Workshop can be found at: www.pikecountytimes.com/secondary/BOC8.10.23.html.

Present from the Pike County Commission were: Commissioners Tim Daniel, Jason Proctor and James Jenkins as well as Chairman Briar Johnson. (Tim Guy arrived a few minutes after the start of the meeting.) Also present were County Manager (CM) Brandon Rogers, County Attorney Rob Morton, and County Clerk Angela Blount. Present from the Pike County Planning and Zoning Board were: Chairman Jason Leatherman, Brandy Loggins, Bryan Pate, and Jim McNair. (Ed Pendland was unavailable to attend the meeting.)

Motion to approve the agenda. Approved 4-0.

CM Brandon Rogers. We made it through 2 sections after 27. Said that we need to pick up where we left off and address some of the discussion so we can squash rumors and not have to deal with that for the next couple of meetings. [Note from the Editor: The County Manager and Planning and Zoning Director are emphasizing chickens, but the main theme throughout the citizen comments was freedom. Freedom to do what you want to do on your property without having to ask permission and/or get a permit from the county. I will applaud the county for listening to people speak in the meeting after the many calls to the county commission office, but if those comments are not on the record during a county commission meeting (Town Hall is not on the record either), history is not going to be able to tell that the story of citizens' concerns during this time of revamping our ordinances.]

Planning and Zoning Director Jeremy Gilbert. Before starting, he wanted to make some points of clarification on things that have come into his office and questions that have been brought to him by commissioners. Chickens. We are not prohibiting chickens, but said that livestock is allowed on 5 acres with no limitation. Said that the 4 chickens or less [Note from the Editor: And no roosters per the proposed ordinance. No roosters means no fertilized eggs for those who don't make the connection here.]--the way it is going to reworded--is going to be for lots that are less than 5 acres because you have to have a minimum of 5 acres for livestock. That is intended in all of the agricultural zoning districts.

Gave an example that could have unlimited numbers of chickens at each of these houses. Reserves at Reidsboro is AR subdivision. Said that this 4 chickens or less [Note from the Editor: And no roosters] will protect the subdivision but not harm the farms. Said that no one has talked about agriculture being unlimited. Said that this limitation only applies in smaller lots.

Jenkins. Why limit 4? That’s their pets. If they have fencing, etc. why 4? Gilbert. 4 is the industry standard in a subdivision. Gilbert: Under the current ordinance, there is a 10 chicken limit. Looking at it from the smaller lot size. If you don’t have an issue with it, we can roll either way on lots that are 5 acres or less… Not touching the AR side of things.

Johnson. Currently at 10 chickens now. Why 10 to 4? Gilbert. We went from 10 to unlimited for AR. If a 5 acre minimum, there are lot of 2 and 3 and some 1 acre lots that are AR now.

Johnson. Why does slaughtering matter? Gilbert. Trying to keep this out of subdivisions is what he kept stressing along with 5 acres.

[Note from the Editor: Forgive me for pointing out the obvious here, but I understand the need for large grazing areas for livestock. But chickens (and the soon to be outlawed roosters) don't need that kind of land. They live in a coop with a small pen so predators don't eat them. Or they free roam and come back to a pen and chicken coop at night. So why 5 acres in a county that is 90% agricultural? (THEIR words and NOT mine.) I understand why there could be a limitation in subdivisions in one acre and two acre subdivisions with a paved road and houses on top of each other, but this will affect every piece of property in the county that currently has chickens for pets or food (and the soon to be outlawed roosters that were not mentioned in this meeting) and will be under the 5 acre minimum at some point in the future. When a piece of property is sold (say 3 or 4 acres) or the owner has to rezone for whatever reason, 5 acres should not be a minimum for people to have chickens for pets or food... and a rooster. And I have a problem with the county telling citizens that they cannot slaughter chickens on their own property. If people aren't slaughtering in front of the kids next door, why should the county care? But wait... that goes for a lot more than just chickens... and also the roosters that aren't being talked about.]

Gilbert. Grandfathering. Discussed the meaning of the word: Non-conforming uses. If it is not a permitted use, it can continue unless it stops for 12 months. Legal lots of record for the lots smaller than 5 acres.

Johnson. The workshop has always been for the commissioners and other boards to sit and talk. This is not a public meeting. This is for the two boards to work through issues before the public has their say so. Morton corrected and Johnson said that this is not a public hearing. He is going to call a few people who have asked to speak on this to speak. Stressed that this will be the only time that the public gets to speak at the workshop. 2 or 3 minutes each.

Jenkins. Let them speak.

Motion to allow people to speak. Approved.

Citizen Comments

Mark Camp. Not here.

Cherry Thomas. Stressed that she is giving suggestions and ideas. 1) Asked them to eliminate anonymous complaints because it can be abused. She has been a victim of that. 2) We are and have been a rural agricultural county. Asked them to remember that as they work through the process. 3) Asked them to pull from rural counties rather than Spalding or Henry. Chickens won’t hurt anyone and are not worse than a chainsaw, etc. in the morning. Last thing we want is to be like Clayton, Henry, etc. We know that we have to deal with development, but we can get the subdivision ordinances in place on larger and smaller lots. She suggested to start over with the ordinances. We the citizens want less government control rather than more.

Larry Gobble. We are talking over-regulation, and it’s more than just chickens. Moved to Pike County 25 years ago and here because it is country living at its finest. I don’t want to live in the city. Don’t want the regulation or the overreach. I hope that we appreciate what we have and strive to keep it. Sees potential overreach on the horizon. We don’t want people coming into Pike to make their money and then go to somewhere else. Why do people want chickens anyway? What we have here is a way of life. Let’s not change it or create regulations… Doesn’t want to hamper people being self-reliant. Sees the potential for freedom being under attack.

Chris Callaway. Not here.

Wayne Leslie. Literally said, "What he said." I appreciate taking a couple of minutes to hear our thoughts. I appreciate what y’all do. With the exception of Jeremy’s predecessor, everyone else has been courteous and professional. He owns a farm. Said that we live in an administrative state… Held up a copy of the Bill of Rights and Constitution, and old and new ordinances for comparison. The county has dictated when his power could be connected, when to build, when to be done, what type of house, whether guest house, camper on property for grandchildren, chickens, etc. I wasn’t here for the last workshop with 25 definitions of the word housing. The unit that he dwells in does not fall within any of those definitions. Article 5 Section 503… He asked, Who owns my property? 30 years as a commercial contractor. Watched these ordinances get thicker. Takes longer to pull a permit to complete construction of a project. You can’t codify everything including common sense or being a good neighbor. Asks that if you don’t start from scratch, recommended pulling the parts from Spalding County. Said there needs to be a clear, concise mechanism to resolve a matter and not be told to go to Superior Court. That isn’t the way to treat customers.

David Brisendine. Said that his remarks have been covered pretty well. Been here since 1973. Code has gone from nothing to "this thick." Nuisance. Why can’t we deal with nuisances when they arise rather than preparing for every single little thing? People need to be able to be left alone to do what they want to do. Said that he is going to have as many chickens and hogs as he wants. I’m a good neighbor. Nobody is going to see this from the road. I understand what freedom is like and being a good neighbor. It’s none of my business to attend to what my neighbor is doing. It’s like we are turning the entire county into a subdivision. I just want to be free and is concerned with 5 acres. He lives in an 1100 square foot house. Said that kids can’t afford to live here. It’s a shame. There should be a place for people to live in small houses in this county. Why does RR need to be different from AR? We are pricing people out and the only people who can afford to live here are those who sold out and moved down here. They’re used to be told what to do. I don’t need to be told what to do; I know how to be a good neighbor. Said that you deal with the nuisance of the 1% when they cause trouble and leave everyone else alone.

Matthew Anderson. 2nd generation farmer. Concerned about my livelihood. There is a lot in the new AR that prevents being able to sell, grow, and put up structures. Had more to say that has already been said. Try not to take my livelihood away from me.

James Thompson. Not here.

Kelly Thompson. Not here.

That is all who had signed up to speak. Anyone else want to say anything that hasn’t been said?

Kristen Cudnohfsky. Said that she is the dreaded chicken lady of Pike County. It’s not about chickens. I spoke about them because we have that in common, but here is how I see it. I come from a farming family. Every generation has lost their farms because of what you’re doing. You’re taking established farms. You’re grandfathering them. What happens when they pass away and then whoever inherits the land… will it be able to remain AR? This is a long game that developers play. You wait for the market. Bought a new construction that is part of an old farm with over 5 acres that is an established farm. Youngest new people in the county. Got in before the land prices went insane 3 years ago. The mortgage for new people would be double and triple what they are paying now. Wait for the prices to overinflate and then taxes get unaffordable and then the farm can be a subdivision. That is in the ordinances. This isn’t about right now or chickens. It’s about the legacy of the county. Farmers been here for decades. If the taxes are unaffordable, what happens? This isn’t about right now. It’s about a bigger picture. Including governmental overreach and pricing people out of their homes. Do you want to allow this? This is about more than chickens. Talking about farms. USDA definition of a farm. $1,000 or more of ag products are produced or sold during a year. Not a limit on a lot for a farm. You decide that I have to have over 5 acres to farm. Homesteading is becoming popular now. So we’re living off of the chickens we butcher. Utilize these skills to survive with her family. Asked them to think about what they’re doing.

Cherry Thomas. Thank you for letting us speak out.

Vonda Blount. Been here all my life. Amen to everyone who has spoken. What we are talking about is freedom. In Pike County, if you look at our voting and statistics, we are conservative and believe in freedom and small government. That has to start right here. We’ve elected you and been appointed and we’ve got to trust you to make the decisions for us. The buck stops here in Pike County. We’re going to have a government that doesn’t want overreach and control. We trust y’all to do those things. You don’t regulate prices and lots and homes. You don’t regulate interest rates. Her kids can’t live here in Pike County. But regulation does drive those things. Strong Towns is about development. Challenged everyone to read it. It's about stopping the regulating and restricting. The most sustainable communities and towns and governments and ways of life develop naturally. They grow by building what they can afford to build at first. Please take these things to heart. Two specific things. Short of stopping restrictions completely… pages and pages are about defining things and control. Said that there should be some places that have no restrictions in our county based on very large acreage. Locking in at purchase prices so people don’t lose their properties. Please take heed to all of this.

[Note from the Editor: If you don't agree with how I have your comments written, please contact me, and I'll listen to your concerns and the recording of the meeting to address how you said things. I tried to capture the overall intent of what was said.]

Discussion on whether to scrap this proposal and go back to square one or keep moving forward

Johnson. Can we work on this document and make it what we want? Asked if the current proposal is a savable document.

Leatherman. We live in a lawsuit happy world rather than good neighbors. We have to have ordinances to try to protect the freedoms of the people. We have to have something to base our decisions on. What would it look like if we scrap this whole thing?

Johnson. Thought we were going to improve our current ordinances and not redo our ordinances.

Gilbert said that it was determined by these boards jointly to create a new direction and new ordinance though this is a totally new format.

Johnson. This is a long way from being approved.

Guy. His understanding too was more of keeping what we had and not going with something totally new.

Gilbert. Conversations from the past two years with additional safeguards based on acreage. Right now, AR zoning has allowed more residents than agriculture. We haven’t see the totality of what this going to do. Trying to put all zoning matters in one book to regulate everything with development from permitted uses, signs, parking, landscape, etc. instead of pulling from different places.

[Note from the Editor: I'm going to include a concern brought forth by our Pike County Extension Coordinator, Brooklyne Wassel in the 6:30 p.m. Regular Called Meeting (verbatim).

"First and foremost, thank you for the opportunity to speak tonight and thank you for your pivotal support of the Pike County Extension office. We are able to serve the Pike County community because of the support you provide.

As many of you knew, my name is Brooklyne Wassel. I serve as the Pike County Extension Coordinator or Department Head as well as the county's Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent. Through this role I assist clients within the community with questions, concerns, and recommendations related to agriculture and natural resources by providing non-biased, research-based information from the University of Georgia. That can look like pulling hay samples for quality analysis, helping someone read their soil report so they can start a garden, or even answering questions about pesticide applications from someone who is new to the neighborhood.

Agriculture is at the very heart of this community. Every year county Extension agents report what is called a "Farm Gate" value for the previous year to show the economic impact of agriculture within their county. Though the 2022 numbers have not been released yet, Pike County's 2021 Farm Gate Value and therefore economic impact was over $22 million. This speaks volumes as to the footprint and fabric of agriculture in this community.

I am passionate about the job I do and the people I serve. This quickly became my community five years ago, and I would not change any of the experiences I have had with the incredible people that call Pike County home. As we continue to move forward, I would like to encourage the Board, the County Manager, the Planning and Zoning Board, and anyone else who has questions related to agriculture to please contact me so that I may provide resources and facts related to the matter at hand.

Thank you again for your time."

[Note from the Editor: $22 million is NOT a small number. We are an agricultural county, and it would do well for the commissioners and planning commission members to hear the people when we are talking about freedom and needing less rules rather than the more that have been suggested in the proposed ordinances.]

Pate. His understanding is that we’re trying to stop the special exceptions, etc. and stop the "Let me get a lawyer" mentality. Said that we have allowed things because threatened with a lawyer. This wouldn’t happen in Peachtree City. We have to have rules because people can’t do what they are supposed to do. If we have it defined the right way, we can a nice community, chickens, etc. Things have to be defined so lawyers can’t tear it apart. We need to take our time and do it right.

Tim Guy. It has to be read word for word and will take some time.

Article 3.

One page. Gilbert passed out a map of the zoning districts. pikecountytimes.com/secondary/PikeCharacterAreaMap8.29.23.2nd.pdf.

Yellow is 3 acres or larger.

Red orange. Emerging residential – 2 acre and smaller lots. Have water available.

We don’t zone it based on what we feel. We have a plan in place for how things are going to be done in the county. The cities have their own regulations.

Not a lot of commercial in the county as of right now. What have we adopted as policy. R2, R1, RR, etc. Where are they in the community. This is the current map.

Can’t have 2 acres or smaller in the yellow areas. We update this plan every 5 years.

Morton. This can be changed without waiting 5 years. Suggest that we add a reference to the conversion chart for the new categories. Grandfathering is non-conforming use. Vesting of rights. Wants clarity on this document that refers to the conversion chart so no ambiguity.

Leatherman. Why RR, etc.? Gilbert. Based on concerns from AR zoning by removing by removing residential. Created a district that allows 3 acre residence but not the AR uses. There have been issues with subdivisions in AR.

Leatherman. Any federal regulations for affordable housing? Morton. This is a change in how things are defined, but not totally changing everything. We have R-18, etc.

Article 4.

General provisions including non-conforming uses. Not going to change anyone less than 5 acres to something less than AR. Not trying to take rights from everyone.

Heights of fences and where fences are allowed. Most are out of the existing ordinances.

Building permit requirements. Appealing the actions of the zoning administrator. What is a variance? Special use permits.

Do we still want to consider sending out notices to property owners? State law only requires a sign and an ad in the paper. ¼ acre requirement still required from the old ordinance. You can change this if you want.

Site plan requirements. Heard from citizens that they want to see a site plan. Going to show a conceptual plan showing proposed buildings, etc. Anything for rezoning. Not just businesses. Rezoning applications will require a site plan from now on.

Multiple parcel rezoning. Appealing an action of the Board of Commissioners. Penalties. Remedies for violations.

Temporary housing in case of disaster. New to provide a way for victims of disaster to have temporary housing on their property.

911 Addressing will be added here at a later time. Morton. Need to make sure that all addressing is together. Said that the section for purchasing with knowledge of an existing restriction/self-induced hardship from the ordinances. Suggestion on section k.

Chapter 30 in current code is being moved to the new code. Also talked about special use permit. 409 Section K and 410 Section K should match up.

Multi-family should be addressed. Gave a few more specifics too.

Jenkins. Questions about emails and concerns. Gilbert. All of the emails are being addressed as Gilbert goes through the ordinances.

Leatherman. What is the purpose of the section being in there about the number of people? Morton. Rather than the number of people showing up determining the end result, board members will be referencing and going by the lawful criteria in our ordinances.

Gilbert. None of the comments you’ve sent to me have we gotten to yet. We’ll get to those.

Johnson. Do we need to do things in sequential order or not? Gilbert asked reps to keep sending concerns instead of waiting until we get there. Will address the concerns as we get to each section.

Morton. This is a zoning decision that cannot be made until the public hearings are held. Members can have a consensus though.

Gilbert. Formulating drafts for the direction of where we go with the finalized document to walk through the process for a vote.

Article 5.

Permitted uses. Special use permits. Special exceptions. Includes assessory structures that are allowed.

Pet breeder. Domestic animal. Dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, etc. Livestock is not included.

Chickens. Unlimited on 5 acres or larger. [Note from the Editor: 3 acre AR minimums look like it is going up to 5 acres.]

Any use not listed can be asked for so the board can hear it. Carried it over because it is in the current ordinance. Do we want to allow anyone to ask for anything as a special use permit? If they want to do this instead of a rezoning, they can.

Setback come from the property line instead of the road.

Flag lots are defined. Major subdivision does not allow them to abut themselves and limited to 20% of the lots.

Minor subdivision with no separation requirement. Citizens have talked to him about this. If we are going to allow no separation, maybe do a shared access rather than two driveways that close together.

Barndominium. 3 foot water table around the structure. Do you want additional requirements like this?

Daniel. 5 acres or more. That’s not a big deal to me.

Jenkins. Y’all can get our emails and contact us. We don’t know it all. Please contact us.

Gilbert. Not addressing FB concerns, but his email is on the www.pikecoga.com, and he is responding. Please let us know your concerns.

Johnson. Call or email us. He has instructed staff to give out his personal cell phone number.

Leatherman. Low and medium density housing definition. Gilbert. Not in the current draft, but it is will be pulled out of our current ordinance or the planner’s definition book.

Leatherman. Conservation subdivision is not in there either. Gilbert found it and read it. This allows for a concentration of lots to preserve green space. This came long before he got here. Article 21 of the subdivision ordinance addresses this.

Leatherman asked about a 5 acre minimum on livestock. What repercussions if we don’t have an ordinance in place? Morton. Right to regulate weighed against rights of property owner to be free.

Loggins. Gardens. Assessory use and not principle use. Primary use is a home but the garden and greenhouse are secondary. Doesn’t regulate selling this. Just says that the primary use is the home.

Leatherman. If I grow tomatoes on my property, I ought to be able to sell tomatoes on my property. Morton. 501 purpose. AR zoning. Low to medium so agriculture is considered the primary use…

[Note from the Editor: Thank you to Leatherman for raising this concern. The county shouldn't care if we sell extra produce from our garden to our neighbors. The same goes for eggs, etc. Period. No county permit should be required. "Produce and/or plants grown in garden shall not be sold from peroperty unless otherwise permitted in this ordinance." If this is written, it can be enforced to the letter of the law. With an anonymous complaint, no less! Same goes for parking of a travel trailer trailer or motor coach and/or pleasure boat in the side or rear yard only. If this is on a large parcel of property, why does this matter? Pet breeder not to exceed 5 animals over 6 months of age. Reduced from 10 in ordinances now. Y'all really need to read through these ordinances... Just saying.]

There will be 2 public hearings on this.

Motion to adjourn.

Ended the meeting at 5:59 p.m.

Readers can see what was said and done in the regularly scheduled County Commission meeting that occurred directly after this ordinance meeting at: www.pikecountytimes.com/secondary/BOC8.29.23.html