CHIPLEY — AMVETS Post 7 of Chipley is considering moving to a new location outside the city limits, but Washington County Planning Commission members say county zoning and liquor laws may hamper that move.
Chipley resident Miles Anderson came before the commission Tuesday to ask questions about the zoning of a piece of property in Washington County that the AMVETS were looking at purchasing for use as a lodge.
“When we reviewed the zoning status it said ‘commercial,’” Anderson said, “but when we called the planning office we were told it was residential.”
Senior Planner Mike DeRuntz explained that the property Anderson was talking about is zoned as residential property on the county’s Future Land Use Map. The building on the land was once used as a fraternal lodge, Anderson said, and he asked why the property’s zoning changed from commercial to residential. He also said that in checking real estate listing and with the county property appraiser’s office, the property is still listed as commercial.
“I understand how you may feel about alcohol sales, and the consumption of alcohol, but in this country, you are allowed to make a choice, whether or not you want to purchase or consume alcohol,” Anderson said.
Anderson said he had called DeRuntz’s office and been told that he could not sell alcohol under the county’s current zoning laws.
“I would like someone to sit down with me and explain why it’s okay to sell a six-pack three miles north of town, but I can’t negotiate for a piece of property to move a fraternal organization to,” Anderson said.
DeRuntz said he would be more than happy to explain the ordinances to Anderson. “What we have here are a couple of issues. First there is the property zoning, then there is the alcohol sales issue.”
The property zoning became residential during the ongoing process of creating the Future Land Use Map, which began back in 1975, Commissioner Roger Hagan said. “It’s not just us, a lot of people have sat in these chairs during this process.” The property would have been operating as a fraternal organization as a nonconforming usage, DeRuntz said, which meant that when it ceased to be a fraternal organization the property reverted back to its original zoning, which was low density residential.
As for selling and consuming alcohol on premises, the rules in Washington County are pretty clear, DeRuntz said. “It’s prohibited. There is an exception for convenience stores, but clubs and restaurants are not allowed to sell alcohol.”
Anderson complained that the real estate listing did not match the county’s designated zoning, but real estate consultant Jim Town, who was in the audience, said that it was the real estate broker’s job to make sure the zoning was correctly identified for a listing.
“A lot of real estate agents do get in touch with Mike (DeRuntz) and make sure to get the proper land use.”
Town noted that even if the county rezoned the proposed property as commercial, that would not mean that Anderson would automatically get a liquor license.
DeRuntz said he spoke with Anderson again on Thursday attempting to set up a meeting with him and his real estate agent. “We’ll try and get his issues resolved.”