Bulloch Local Government

Commissioners Approve Zoning Variance for Proposed RV & ATV Park Despite Opposition of Adjoining Landowners

A contentious application to change the zoning variance of a parcel of land to allow for the construction of an RV park was decided Tuesday night by the Bulloch County commissioners.

Keith Dixon submitted two applications for consideration on a 13.81 acre parcel of land. In order to bring the project to fruition, Dixon requested a zoning variance on the AG-5 property to GC (General 

Commercial) followed by a Conditional Use variance. The Conditional Use request was contingent upon approval by the Board on the zoning variance. 

The park area for RVs is part of a larger project on the 430 of total acreage owned by Dixon, including a private, membership-only ATV park. Dixon told Commissioners it would hopefully keep people on ATVs off of the roads and roadsides, providing a place for recreation while keeping money in Bulloch County. 

Parcel: 2240 Mill Branch Club Road, Pembroke, GA (13.81 acres)

About the property:

  • Mill Branch Club Road is a dirt road with the property is located just past the intersection with Old Donaldson School Road.
  • The closest commercial zone is in excess of three miles away 
  • There are primarily rural residential and agricultural uses at adjacent and nearby properties
  • The proposed development is proximate to the Canoochee-Sandhills WMA.

County findings based on application:

  • In terms of land use, there is no evidence that the proposed zoning change should injure or detract from existing or nearby properties.
  • In terms of fiscal impacts, “[v]alues for adjacent properties may not necessarily be enhanced by the proposed development unless aesthetic restrictions are required, and, if enforcement of governmental land use and property maintenance regulations is applied. However, failure to enforce any property standards is likely to result in stagnant or lower property values.”
  • There is only one similar park in the county. However, the impact or market demand cannot be determined.
  • The cost of providing public services would likely exceed the revenues produced
  • Response time is likely to be inadequate for law enforcement, fire and EMSRescue. No provisions for fire hydrants proffered or sustainable; internal circulation appears to be insufficient for emergency vehicles as presented
  • A private road way is proposed with a mix of one and two-way lanes for internal circulation. Internal roads or streets meeting County standards are preferred for the development.
  • All current nearby intersections are sub-standard for this level of proposed development
  • The Comprehensive Plan does not support active recreation

OPPOSITION

Attorney Steve Rushing appeared before Commissioners to oppose the project on behalf of an adjoining landowner – the Bradley family and BBT Timberlands LLC. They’re owners of 2,370.5 acres to the north of Dixon’s property, which is made up entirely of timberland. 

Rushing told commissioners that the family was not represented at the Planning & Zoning Commission because they were still in the process of retaining an attorney. 

“You may remember the Bradley name because they have been here before on a rezone, the extended Bradley family, when they attempted to rezone some of the property in this same area. An industrial property some years ago. That failed and the property remained AG-5 and since then they split it up, it’s gone to some of the children, this is one of the families that came out of that…they’re back here now and they’re trying to support the zone to remain,” Rushing told commissioners.

Rushing also listed concerns of the family, to include:

  • Every direction for miles is AG-5, everything south of I-16. This would be one spot in the middle of thousands of acres of AG-5 and the county tries to stay away from spot zoning unless there is a compelling reason.
  • Concerns over whether or not ATVs will only be allowed on 13 acres or if the entire property owned by Dixon will be subject to ‘commercial use.’ 
  • What timber owners fear most is fire – ATVs pose a threat

He then asked that commissioners lean on staff recommendations instead of those by Planning & Zoning. Staff recommendations included denial of the zoning application. Rushing said the 28 concerns recommended in approving the applications don’t necessarily mitigate all of the concerns that he outlined.

PLANNING AND ZONING

The Planning & Zoning Board previously approved both requests in 4-0 votes, but the approval on the first application included a lengthy list of conditions.

If Dixon sought to move forward with the application, he would be subject to the following:

  1. A prohibition of expansion without additional conditions imposed by the BOC
  2. Plan concepts with conditions must be provided to the county before permits are issued.
  3. No recreational vehicle shall remain in an RV park for more than 4 months and no business may operate inside the RV park other than the RV park itself.
  4. A valid County occupational tax certificate (business license) is required.
  5. No permanent structural addition to any recreational vehicle shall be permitted.
  6. No part of the RV park shall be used for the parking or storage of any heavy equipment or trucks exceeding one-ton capacity, except those used by the owner or management for park maintenance and it must be sheltered and screened.
  7. Permitted accessory uses for commercial services and parking areas serving such accessory uses shall only serve the trade or service needs of travelers or guests patronizing the RV park
  8. A recreation area of at least 10,000 sq ft shall be provided in addition to the required landscaping. Recreation equipment, such as a pool, playground, and picnic tables can be located within the recreation area; all recreation areas shall be well-drained, grassed or hard-surfaced and dust-free.
  9. Before development permits are issued, the developer shall submit a Hydrologic Analysis and a Stormwater Management Plan for the entire tract based on approved zoning demonstrating that post-construction runoff will be maintained at the predevelopment rate.
  10. A private water system is required and shall be such that it is capable of supplying at least 100 gallons of water per day to each recreational vehicle space.
  11. Trailer sanitation stations designed to receive the discharge of sewage holding tanks for self-contained vehicles shall be installed in an accessible location in every recreational vehicle park in which there are sites not provided with drain inlets designed to receive the discharge of toilets. Trailer sanitation stations shall be provided on the basis of one station for each 100 such sites or fraction thereof.
  12. Refuse containers shall be furnished within 300 feet of every RV space with all refuse to be stored in watertight, rodent-proof containers.
  13. All refuse containing garbage shall be collected and disposed of at least once weekly.
  14. The recreational vehicle park shall provide on-site toilet and bathing facilities for the exclusive use of the tenants of the park. Such toilet and bathing facilities shall consist of at least 1 lavatory, 1 water closet and one shower stall per 20 RV spaces, one of each provided and distinctly marked. Toilet and bathing facilities shall be connected to the park’s water and sewerage systems.
  15. Fires shall be made only in recreation areas and placed in safe and convenient locations, where they will not constitute fire hazards to vegetation, undergrowth, trees and RVs.
  16. Fire hydrants shall be installed throughout all RV Parks in accordance with the specification of the Statesboro Fire Department. There shall be one (1) hydrant at the entrance to the development, and additional hydrants at a distance not to exceed 500 ft between hydrants.
  17. All utilities, including electrical power and telephone lines, shall be installed underground.
  18. Every recreational vehicle space shall be provided with a weatherproof electrical connection supplying 110 volts.
  19. Every recreational vehicle space shall be paved.
  20. Every recreational vehicle space shall be provided with an individual connection (or service hydrant) to the recreational vehicle park’s water system.
  21. Every recreational vehicle space shall be provided with ample room to assure that a typical recreational vehicle measuring eight feet wide by 30 feet long can be placed on the space and be located not closer than 20 feet to the centerline of any interior park street.
  22. All permanent structural units shall have compatible architectural details and a defined character.
  23. ‘Motif street signage is permitted provided that all lettering, directional and safety attributes on the signs meet MUTCD requirements.
  24. One monument-based entrance sign shall be permitted and must be placed at least 40’ from the road center line.
  25. All roads, walkways, grouped-bay parking and service areas shall be provided with lighting adequate to ensure the safety of vehicular and pedestrian traffic.
  26. All lighting shall be downcast and recessed into the fixture and not create glare onto adjoining properties.
  27. At least one (1) off-street parking space shall be provided for each RV space. All parking areas shall be paved. Off-street grouped or guest parking shall be made available at a ratio of one space for every four RV spaces, and shall be located within (150) feet of the RV spaces serve.
  28. Internal streets shall be paved and designed to provide safe and convenient access to all spaces and to facilities for common use by park occupants, and shall be constructed and maintained to allow free movement of emergency and service vehicles at all times. A (45) foot turning radius shall be required on all curves, to allow access by emergency vehicles.

DIXON RESPONDS

Dixon was given an opportunity to respond to Rushing’s comments, specifically to the concerns of fire.

“Every bit of land around there by the timber owners is leased to dog hunters and I don’t think a one of them walks. They’re running around these properties with trucks, all through the woods,” he said. “They’ve got pipes also on them. I don’t see the difference in a timber company being allowed to lease their land out to dog hunters who’re running around up and down the road in trucks.”

Dixon said he has no intentions of impacting the adjoining property owners and while he can’t say an ATV can’t catch on fire, he has never had one catch on fire. 

COMMISSIONER DISCUSSION

Commissioner Roy Thompson asked Dixon about the insurance policy he would carry for the park, to which he said he has ‘General Liability’ insurance. “So if someone throws a cigarette out in the woods, on your property, it burns up, does your insurance recover it?” Dixon said he would have to check because he doesn’t know what happens when someone throws a cigarette out the window on a county road.

Attorney Steve Rushing asked commissioners to consider adding a condition that the liability insurance be sufficient to cover damages in the event that it destroys the timber on the adjoining property. 

Commissioner Curt Deal asked Dixon how much his liability insurance was for, but Dixon was not sure without having the policy with him.

County Manager Tom Couch asked to address commissioners to interject that he could not recall a time in the past where commissioners mandated liability insurance – or an amount – as a condition of approval of a variance. “I feel like it’s a little bit of a slippery slope to do that,” Couch said. 

County Attorney Jeff Akins echoed Couch’s comments. “I agree. I would caution, really, against doing that. I understand Mr. Rushing’s concern, but that’s more of a contractual like condition…”

DECISION BY COMMISSIONERS

Commissioners ultimately voted unanimously to approve both applications.

administrator
Jessica Szilagyi is Publisher of The Georgia Virtue. She focuses primarily on state and local politics as well as issues in law enforcement. She has a background in Political Science with a focus in local government and has a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia. Jessica is a "Like It Or Not" contributor for Fox5 in Atlanta, a commentator on the 'Let Me Tell You Why You're Wrong Podcast,' and she has two blogs of her own: The Perspicacious Conservative and "Hair Blowers to Lawn Mowers." Sign up for her weekly newsletter: http://eepurl.com/gzYAZT

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