CHIPLEY —Senior Planner Mike DeRuntz presented the Future Land Use Map and a number of amendment requests by landowners to the Washington County Planning Commission on Tuesday.
“These property owners would like to see changes to their properties, and although we have discussed these in workshops, we need a motion from the board before we can do anything,” DeRuntz said.
Most of the properties are small areas, ranging from 1.07 to 5.13 acres, seeking usage changes from agricultural/silvicultural to either commercial or low/medium density residential. Three of the requests are for parcels of 160, 160 and 237 acres.
DeRuntz said the landowners had requested that as the county’s map was being updated, the usages of their properties be changed to reflect their requests.
Typically a property owner goes before the commission and requests the usage to be changed, and pays a fee of $750 to $1,500 depending on the size of the parcel, DeRuntz said.
In 2012, DeRuntz held six public hearings at different locations around the county, and that is where he received input from landowners.
“We were just given the requests to take into consideration,” DeRuntz said. “It doesn’t mean we have to change them.”
Commissioner Tonya Pippin, serving as chairwoman at her last meeting as a commissioner, said she was concerned with changing the usage without following the proper procedure.
“I feel like if we do this, then we should request that the adjacent landowners are notified of the pending changes.”
“I understand making changes to make corrections, but we’re not changing things just to change them,” Commissioner James Ussery said.
“I would be concerned with them making those changes and knowing they are going to sell the properties,” Commissioner Jim Ackerman said.
“We shouldn’t consider the economic value of the property,” DeRuntz said. “We should be concerned with the usage, and whether or not that usage is applicable to that property.”
“The process of correcting the map is administrative,” said Jim Town, a local real estate broker. He said coloring in the map for future use doesn’t change the fair market value of the property or affect the county’s tax base, but the process protects the county in the future from zoning deviations, and can drive growth in critical areas.
“You’re the gatekeepers for the future of the county,” Town said. “That is the most important function that the planning commission does.”
DeRuntz said on Thursday that now that the properties have been discussed by the commissioners, the requests for zoning changes to the properties would be considered at no charge.
Washington County’s need for more commercial and industrial property was also a topic at the meeting on Tuesday.
Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ted Everett told the commissioners to look at providing more industrial zoning on the future land use map.
“I strongly suggest we look at some light industrial usage in southern Washington County,” Everett said. Ebro is a north-south and east-west corridor that is ripe for growth, Everett added. “It will come, it is inevitable. That will be a key area of economic growth in the future for Washington County.”
It was Commissioner Pippin’s final meeting. She resigned from the board after 10 years of service as a planning commissioner. Everett congratulated Pippin on a job well done and thanked her for her service to the community.
“Your wisdom will be missed by the planning commission,” he said.
“It’s been an honor and a privilege to serve on the commission,” Pippin said. “It was not always easy, but it was a pleasure to be able to give back to the community.”