Update 2023-09-26: Curious omissions from the minutes; see Packet: Golf carts, mental health, wetland credits, regional transit, Lift Station and Fire Station Access Roads, 2 TIA Road Bids @ LCC 2023-09-25.
The Lowndes County Commission unanimously denied the inappropriate 2.5-acre rezoning proposed on minimum 5-acre and predominantly agriculture, forestry, and conservation Quarterman Road, after five local residents spoke against and nobody for.
Thanks to all who signed the petition against that rexoning, who called or wrote County Commissioners, who spoke in the Planning Commission or County Commission meetings, and thanks to the County Commisisoners for denying the rezoning.
Among the five who spoke at the County Commission were Gretchen Quarterman (who also took the videos for Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange (LAKE)) and Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman (details on both are below). He made sure the Commissioners had a copy of the WWALS letter that had mysteriously been left out of the board packet; thanks to WWALS President Sara Jay Jones for signing that letter.
This denial comes after two previous denials, both also in an Agriculture/Forestry/Conservation Character Area, both also provoking many petition signatures and speakers in opposition, including WWALS.
- The Miller Bridge Road rezoning too near the Little River, that WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman spoke against at the Greater Lowndes Planning Commission (GLPC) back in November 2021 and which was unanimously denied by the Lowndes County Commission in February 2022.
- The Dollar General rezoning on Skipper Bridge Road that WWALS sent a letter opposing, which would drain its trash down a short creek into the Withlacoochee River, and which the Lowndes County Commission denied in January 2023.
Maybe developers will get the picture that development is not appropriate in such a Character Area, especially when wetlands and waterways are affected.
It is interesting the extent to which a development mindset can color a presentation by a County Planner. I was just going to mention one example of that, but as I listened to the LAKE video of his presentation, I kept noticing more examples.
6.a. REZ-2023-04 Chase, 6119 Quarterman Rd, ~18 acres, E-A to R-A,
Videos: Quarterman Quarterman Road rezoning unanimously denied; Mt. Zion Church Road rezoning unanimously approved @ LCC Regular 2023-09-12
Regular Session, Lowndes County Commission, Valdosta, Lowndes County, Georgia, Tusday, September 12, 2023.
Videos by Gretchen Quarterman for Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange (LAKE).
Anyone in the country has access to Quarterman Road just by driving there, yet, like he did before the Planning Commission, Lowndes County Planner J.D. Dillard still talked about “the 131 properties that staff reviewed that have access to Quarterman Road”. See below for Paris Stoeffler’s comment on subdivision use of Quarterman Road.
He erroneously referred to the subdivision as “Quarterman Crossing Estate”, which is not its name. That Quarterman Crossing subdivision has no association with the Quarterman family, nor does Quarterman Estates in the south part of Lowndes County. Our family complaints about those names back in 2007 led to a county rule that no more subdivisions can be named after nearby roads.
He still showed a map of acreages of tracts which omitted acreages for Ferrell Scruggs’ 608.40 acres south of Quarterman Road and Stalvey Farms West’s 111.02 acres directly east of the subject property, extending to Cat Creek Road. He seemed to only be displaying acreages for tracts with houses near Quarterman Road.
Similarly, when he showed a map of signatures of the petition against the rezoning, he only showed a tight view of Quarterman Road and the nearby area, thus omitting the nine Stalvey signatures related to their property on Quarterman Road, and many others.
He included a wider-area map in the board packet, but he did not present that map.
He said, “when we talk about the change of Rural Residential versus Agricultural, based on how it’s taxed there, the yellow being taxed residentially, the mint-green kind of agricultural tax, and the conservation tax covenants there in the dark green.” The R-A and E-A zoning classifications are made by votes of the Lowndes County Commission, they are not based on taxation. And on his map the subject property is not marked as taxed residentially, nor the two new lots just to the north, so that map is out of date even for what it purports to show.
He did admit that there are wetlands on the subject property and throughout the area.
He showed an aerial map of the northern 2/3 of Quarterman Road, “several fields of planted crops; some left in open undisturbed natural vegetative state”. He apparently doesn’t even know the difference between planted pines, clearly visible on the map, and natural forest. Gretchen and I, with two helpers, personally planted the 12,000 longleaf pines on the former cotton field next to the subdivision; that’s re-establishing nature, not leaving it undisturbed. He did not seem to know that natural or planted pine forest needs firebreaks and prescribed burns; see below.
Then he showed an aerial map of the southern third of Quarterman Road, and asserted that “a couple of the portions, parcels, outside of Quarterman Road predominantly used for agricultural, while the interior is primarily residential.” That once again discounts the Ferrell Scruggs and Stalvey Farms tracts, which are mostly in forestry. It also counts by lots on the inside the road, discounting all the woods that can be plainly seen on the map.
Then he showed a map zoomed in on the south part of Quarterman Road, further emphasizing that he is discounting the agricultural and forestry areas on the outside edge of the road.
Next he went through a series of maps of lot layouts.
These lot layout maps conveniently do not show the wetlands on the subject property.
He had presented the same or very similar maps at the Planning Commission.
But they were not in the board packet for the County Commission, so you’ll have to make do with the low contrast recorded from his projection screen.
On the other hand, while he had recommended approval to the Planning Commission, on his agenda sheet for the County Commission he merely recommended “Board’s Pleasure”.
Chairman Bill Slaughter then called for anyone who wished to speak in opposition to the rezoning.
“My name is Gretchen Quarterman, I live at 6565 Quarterman Road. We live at the northern part of the property.
“When Mr. Dillard talks about 131 properties that have access to the road, he’s really talking about 87 that are in the subdivision, and we just try to ignore those people, because the zoning of that is an aberration. And think about the 44 lots that are on our road. If you count each of those lots individually, as a lot, my husband and I own 5 of the 44. John’s niece owns three of them. Because the road splits the lots.
“Our area is forestry and conservation. It’s agriculture. People grow crops. Ferrell Scruggs grows trees. Iain Walker’s family grows row crops. They have, I’m not sure how many acres, well more than a hundred. Her sister has a hundred acres. Ferrell Scruggs owns all of the property across from this potential, and he has six hundred acres. And he has all of the frontage on that side of the road.
“It’s just not appropriate to have R-A. R-A is appropriate in a place where you’re going from higher density to this lower density. Say when McMillan starts to be developed and those go from E-A to something, R-A would be appropriate there. R-A is not appropriate on the little corner, way down in the bottom of a road that doesn’t go anywhere.
“The other thing that I’d like to say is that when Johnny Hambrick died, and Helen sold off his lots, all the lots that she sold, which is most of Hambrick Road, have covenants on them that they cannot be subdivided. So this subdivision really becomes an aberration in our neighborhood, out of character.
“So please deny it. Thank you.”
She said she moved down from Atlanta and bought six acres on a dirt road in a rural setting with hayfields, forestry, and wetlands. “I do not feel that put in what would amount to a small subdivision, with 5 to 7 new septic tanks and wells, would help this area any.” She said that would cause more traffic. She mentioned that when the road was being paved we fought to keep the canopies, and they held up during the hurricane. She asked for the rezoning to be denied.
She said they only have five acres, but like most who only have five acres, they have woodlands all around, and a garden. She talked about the power line downed near the subdivision entrance, which caused all traffic to go by her house.
“Y’all, it was like living on a highway, in town.”
Normally subvision residents go out the other way. “Even though those people have access to our road, they do not use our portion of the road. We are down in the woods.
“We would just really love for y’all to deny this… the extra people, traffic, noise: it just doesn’t go with what’s going on on the rest of Quarterman Road. Thank you.”
He noted he lives right next to the subject property. He said he moved from Atlanta, “away from the hustle and bustle; we were looking for more country or rural setting, with less traffic and fewer disturbances, because we both work from home.”
He said he could relate to the neighbor and what he is trying to do.
“But I do feel … in a good community, there’s gotta be a place and room for everybody. And I think that the people who live on Quarterman found that place where they want to be. If you want to be in a denser area, there’s plenty of opportunities to go somewhere else….
“But the nature on Quarterman is very unique and special, and I think that the more people that are there, the more disturbed it will be. Unintentionally, maybe.
“I think the community that is there have a, maybe a different view on what a neighborhood looks like, but that’s our neighborhood out there.
“I’m not saying that five or seven families is going to make a huge difference, but it’s the slippery slope, because the next time somebody else sells some lots they want to subdivide them into two acres. And next time it’s one and a half acres. And before you know it, you’ve got a massive subdivision out there.
“And I think that takes away from what people are looking for out there. The people who live there, they’re looking for nature, and peace and quiet, I think; we do…”
He recommended denial of the current plans.
I noted I had left them copies of the WWALS letter, which had inadvertently been left out of the board packet. The main point of which is that there are wetlands on the subject property and directly across the road, where there is also a creek, Toms Branch, which flows into the Withlacoochee River.
“More building would be more runoff, getting into the creek, more contamination, so we don’t want that.”
Then to a point raised by the County Planner:
“As far as leaving things natural, it’s not that you just leave a forest and don’t touch it. You have to do firebreaks. You have to do prescribed burns. We have one of the few scraps of natural longleaf pine forest in the county. And already, every time we do a prescribed burn, somebody calls the county fire department.
“I’ve taken to proactively calling the county fire department, ‘I’m gonna burn; here’s my burn permit number; you don’t have to send anybody.’ So then at least they just send somebody to look, instead of sending a whole crew.
“And the more people the more that’s going to happen.
“As far as the subdivision, almost everybody I’ve talked to in the subdivision, as soon as you say more houses means more traffic, ‘where’s the petition, lemme sign it.’ They don’t want it, either.
“So all we’re asking is for you to do the same thing you did with Miller Bridge Road, you may recall a year or two ago, and the same thing you did with the Dollar General rezoning on Skipper Bridge [Road]. This is the same kind of Agriculture, Conservation, Forestry area. We ask you to deny this rezoning and keep it the way it is. Thank you.”
Nobody spoke in favor of the rezoning.
No Commissioners wanted to discuss. Commissioner Demarcus Marshall moved to deny; Commissioner Joyce Evans seconded; Commissioners Mark Wisenbaker and Clay Griner also voted yes. Commissioner Scottie Orenstein was away at a conference.
Thank you, Lowndes County Commissioners, for denying this inappropriate rezoning.
For the entire meeting, see Videos: Quarterman Road rezoning unanimously denied; Mt. Zion Church Road rezoning unanimously approved @ LCC Regular 2023-09-12 by Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange (LAKE), which includes links to related previous meetings and documents.
Other relevant water topics were discussed in that meeting, but this blog post is already long enough.
-jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®