WASHINGTON COUNTY - Board of County Commissioners encountered backlash from a concerned citizen in Chipley over a request to change 5.89 acres from agriculture to general commercial.
The request, made by the land owner, would take the acres out of 40 total acres he owns on Highway 90 and was discussed in previous board meetings but was tabled due to concerns from the public and request to review by the BOCC.
Bryan Crosby, a resident of Chipley who owns property near the site, said he has great concerns about the request for the property to be rezoned, saying that it could negatively impact the county.
“I’m here to ensure prosperity out there of Highway 90,” Crosby said.
Crosby said the rezoning of the property to allow commercial doesn’t make sense as it sits outside the, “urban” part of Chipley in a low density residential area. He said rezoning would result in a loss of farming land needed by the community.
“More importantly is the loss of the economic vitality of the urban center (Chipley),” he said. That is exactly what happened to Chipley. I10 was completed and US 90 and Chipley were bypassed and business sprawled out and economic prosperity was lost.“
Crosby said Chipley was a small community that needed to focus on revamping the urban center than, “sprawling out.” Crosby also said he had concerns that if the land was rezoned and sold it would become like several other commercial sites in the area that have fallen into disrepair and businesses in them keep changing at a rapid rate.
“Mainstreet Market is exactly what kind of downtwon business Chipley needs,” Crosby said. “one that maintains and develops their property and brings in people [from all over.]”
He said the BOCC needs to focus on developing downtown Chipley currently and maybe in the future look to expanding out.
Crosby said he doesn’t want to tell people what to do with his land, echoing a statement made by Commissioner Tray Hawkins at a previous meeting, but said the owner of the property doesn’t want it and could sell it just as it currently is zoned.
Crosby has not been the only person to voice concerns, he said. Several neighbors within the area feel the land should not be rezoned.
The property is owned by Mark Odom, who holds a seat on the planning board. Crosby said he feels Odom used his position to gain assistance from the BOCC in order for the rezoning request to capitalize on the sell, a belief the BOCC denies.
Commissioner Hawkins said while he understand Crosby’s concerns, he said Crosby was allowed to do with his property as he saw fit.
“If it fits the demographic of the property, by all means you have that right [to zone your property that way,]” Hawkins said. “That’s just America.”
Hawkins said he stands by earlier comments made in previous meetings about the rezoning and said he feels the property fits the demographic needs to be rezonned commercial. he said in Holmes County, four new businesses between Washington and Holmes County that also lie on Hwy 90 are being built in an area that is similar to the requested property in Chipley.
Commissioner Alan Bush, in contrast, supported Crosby and said he had concerns about the rezoning.
“You have heard from the public and they are not satisfied with the change until they know what the business is.” Bush said. “I don’t see the rational for making that commercial.”
Bush said this issue matches a similar situation that happened with another property in prior years where residents did not want a rezoning and the county worked with them to find a solution.
“I see no difference (in doing that in this situation.)” he said.
Ultimately the request to rezone was approved 4-1 with Bush giving the single nay vote.