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County Commission holds four public hearings

The Madison County Commissioners gathered together at the Courthouse Annex on the chilly Wednesday, Jan. 13 morning at 9 a.m. There was much to be discussed at the meeting, with four public hearings on the agenda.

Before the public hearings began, Sheriff Ben Stewart took to the podium and spoke in regards to the school zone issue in Lee. “We've done everything we can,” said Stewart. He emphasized that those concerned about the school zone can contact their state representative to discuss their problems with the school zone. “We're at a standstill until we hear more from the public, state representatives or senators,” stated Stewart. He commented that the law will still be enforced around the school zone involving the posted speed limit, but the Madison County Sheriff's Office has done everything in their power to deal with the initial concerns of the public.

After Stewart wrapped up his informative speech, Jeanne Bass took the floor as the first public hearing was held for a special exception application by Tri-County Electric Co-op for submission. Tri-County Electric received opposition from a resident during a planning and zoning board meeting held in December regarding the substation site proposed to be located at State Road 6. The substation would be located beside the resident's property, which the resident disapproved of. In order to find a solution for the resident's concerns, Tri-County Electric shifted the substation east to west, more than 150 feet away from the property in an attempt to buffer the substation from the resident's property. This buffer created 500 ft. between the substation and resident. The special exception was approved unanimously by the board of commissioners.

The next public hearing regarded an application submitted by C4 Towers, LLC. C4 Towers, LLC submitted the application in hopes of establishing a cell tower in the Cherry Lake area. There was opposition from neighboring property owners, as the cell tower would be located in a wooded area in close proximity of several homes. The application was originally tabled, as the planning and zoning board did not find any mention of what carrier the cell tower would operate under. C4 Towers, LLC claimed the carrier would be Verizon, but there was no documentation on that claim. The planning and zoning board recommended that the commissioners deny the application, as the application did not include an engineering plan or any carrier documentation even after the board gave C4 Towers, LLC a chance to correct the application. Many citizens came to the podium to express their opinion on the cell tower.

Angelina Curtis, who has purchased property near the cell tower, requested that the board deny the application, as C4 Towers, LLC intended to put the cell tower where Curtis and her family can see it right out their front window. Curtis mentioned that there is a lot of open space in the Cherry Lake area not located close to homes and if a cell tower was nearby her home, if she wanted to sell it later on, the cell tower would depreciate her home's value by 10 to 20 percent.

Many other citizens came to the podium requesting that the board deny the application for safety, security and interest reasons.

Bass also explained to the commissioners that the planning and zoning board asked C4 Towers, LLC if the cell tower could be located on Cherry Lake's water tower, but the representatives were “unprofessional” and did not give a logical explanation as to why the tower could not be located at the water tower. After much discussion, the board voted to deny the application. However, if C4 Towers, LLC desires to apply again later after getting the proper paperwork together, they may do so.

The next public hearing involved a Small Scale Comprehension Plan for a two-acre parcel in Pinetta to go from residential to commercial, as the 9,100 square foot property would become a Dollar General. This was approved by the commissioners.

The last public hearing up for discussion was the enactment of the flood plain management ordinance. There were many changes made to the original plan in order for it to be approved by FEMA. These changes were approved unanimously.

After the last public hearing was over, the consideration of ordinance granting statutory exemption for building permit fees to disabled veterans was brought to the commissioners. This ordinance moved to waive any building permit fee for disabled veterans. There is an ordinance already out that states that if a person is 100 percent disabled, they are waived of exempt fees for improvements to their home. However, the ordinance does not exempt new homes. This was tabled so further research on this ordinance could be done.

The final item on the agenda regarded a change for the passing score requirement for contractors and reciprocating surrounding counties. The passing score requirement was approved to be changed from a score of 70 to a score of 75. Adding Jefferson, Suwannee, Taylor and Hamilton as reciprocating counties was also approved.

Public works concluded the meeting and gave the commissioners updates on several projects going on in the county. Many pave projects are expected to be done by the summer and the Darby Pond boat ramp was approved.

The next County Commission meeting will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 27 at 6 p.m.

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