McIntosh Mirror: Reflecting news in the Tosh

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Light-up McIntosh December 15

Light-up McIntosh will begin at the Civic Center at 6:30 p.m. The event will host Santa Clause and an area choir from six local churches will sing.

10.24.06 -- REPORT: Cliched Silence

By CHER PHILLIPS
It was the kind of silence for which clichés are written.

Too long to be a pregnant pause, the seconds that ticked by between the Land Planning Agency meeting and the beginning of the Board of Adjustment meeting couldn’t become minutes quickly enough.

The LPA meeting lasted only eight minutes. That was seven minutes shy of the fifteen LPA chairman Charlsie Stott had set aside to determine whether or not the LPA would hear two petitions from Sportsman’s Cove owner Casey Girardin’s as the Board of Adjustment. They opted to hear them wearing their BOA hats. Since they serve both roles, the only thing left to do was wait.

While the seven-minute wait was uncomfortable for most in the Civic Center, it was nothing to the more than six months that Girardin has been waiting for resolution on two separate issues. To her, it meant being able to expand her business and earn a reward on her business.

One thing it did mean for McIntosh was more trailers -- a contentious proposal at best.

The crowd gathered was small. Three of the five current council members showed up to watch. Councilman Howard Walkup took his favorite seat in the back of the room by Girardin. It's the one he sits in when he's playing a resident in the back row. Councilwoman Eva Jo Callahan stringing beads on to a piece of tan thread. She sat next to Councilman Frank Ciotti.

Ciotti brought with him his code books and papers. He’s been researching government lately, watching the county commission meetings online. He is taking his role as council president seriously. He would say later Monday night that the one thing he wanted to see come of this meeting was for someone to finally approve or deny Girardin’s site plans. He got his wish.

Before the LPA meeting began and everyone had settled into their perspective, polarized corners, there’d been banter about whether or not Howard Walkup sold “pa`cans” or “pee-cans.”

It was only after the former councilman Joe Phillips, his wife Susan and June Glass arrived that a pall fell upon the room. Former code enforcement officer Art Davis sat next to Callahan, in front of the Phillips' and Glass. He was stern, staring forward.

As the minutes stretched out, tension made itself known. Most in the room wore stern expressions, even Fred DelRusso sitting off to the side in the back row. The tension was portrayed in the board members’ eyes shifting up to the clock and the audience members staring straight ahead. Silent. Waiting. From the closed faces in that audience, this wasn’t a happy town. Not entirely. Not yet.

A scan of the residents earned this reporter at least one hostile – nay, vicious – look from a resident.

Girardin’s first request involved a parcel of land known around town as the Hudson property.

Earlier this spring, when she’d been riddled with pop inspections from various county departments because someone in town had been anonymously calling in complaints against her, Girardin stood up in a meeting and addressed it. She asked why the council didn’t go after the Hudson property and the trailers on it, which were in disrepair. Former Councilwoman Danaya Wright met eyes with one or two of the council members and said they could do that.

The council has long wanted the Hudson property to be kept up. During the BOA meeting, both June Glass and Susan Phillips reminded Stott that when she was a council member, the council wanted to condemn the trailers on the Hudson property.

Even at the beginning of this year, the subject of the condition of this property came up in a Feb. 15 continuation meeting of the town council.

“We’ve got two or three trailers down there, that I know that Casey mentioned,” former Councilman Joe Phillips said in the meeting, “that are dilapidated, that are health hazards and hazards to the public and we need to write Steve Hudson over there and tell him to get those trailers over there out of there or we will.”

This fell under a discussion in which Wright said they wanted to hire a code enforcement officer that month, within a few weeks. Phillips told the council they could write letters themselves about other code enforcement issues -- like a septic tank -- and put residents with violations under warning. But that's not what they did with the Hudson property.

In fact, in February, the four trailers in question had been vacant for a full year and at that time became non-conforming.

But for all the talk of code enforcement, the council did nothing about citing these trailers until Girardin bought them herself, for $80,000 and began cleaning up the property.

One of the reasons Girardin asked for a petition before the BOA was that two weeks after she’d purchased the property and began cleaning and remodeling the trailers, former code enforcement officer Art Davis finally decided to put abandonment on the trailers pulling the water meters out of them and having Progress Energy cancel the electricity.

Charlsie Stott BOA member summed up the situation for the other board members.

“What happened was that Hudson, who owned them, didn’t fix them up,” Stott said. “Casey bought them with the intention of fixing them up. In the meantime, after she purchased them, the code enforcement officer put in abandonment.”

Davis contended that there was a complaint in the file from a neighbor Frank Capriotti against the Hudson property. He did not cite Girardin but went straight to declaring them abandoned. Stott said she'd spoken to the Capriottis and said the complaint was old when Davis followed it up in late April -- months after the council had done nothing to move forward on them.

“The abandonment was put on there after she purchased them and she had no way of knowing this was going to be declared,” Stott said.

There are four mobile homes on the Old Hudson property. Since the property is zoned R4 in McIntosh and is on 1 1/3 acres of land, unless these four trailers are grandfathered in, Girardin would only be allowed to have two trailers on this parcel of land instead of the four she purchased.

But she purchased what she thought was two conforming trailers and two non-conforming trailers – older ones that followed old McIntosh zoning.

When Davis put abandonment on the trailers, he wiped out her grandfathered status. She, effectively, lost two trailers.

The BOA unanimously voted to give Girardin a variance for these trailers. The BOA, effectively, gave them back to her. She said she intends to restore them, move into one herself, move her aging mother into another, reserve one for her park assistant and rent the fourth trailer.

“I move that we give her permission to fix them up, so that it won’t be such an undue hardship on her,” Stott said. “We can read the codes and reread the codes but I don’t think that would do us any good. To prevent her from undue hardship, I think we should grant her a variance and I put that in the form of a motion.”

Some disagreed with Stott and the rest of the BOA’s stance.

Council President Frank Ciotti asked the current code enforcement officer Phil Howell to interpret the code for him. Howell wrote a letter than Ciotti asked town clerk Julie Musselman to send to the BOA chairman John Sapp stating that in his opinion, granting this variance fell outside the BOA’s purview.

In a phone interview Monday, Howell said he was interpreting the code as he read it and was trying everything in his might to remain an objective interpreter of the town’s code.

Several of the audience members also took exception to the variance.

“If you give her this, you are essentially giving her quarter acre lots and if you do that for her, I want quarter acre,” June Glass, resident, said.


The other petition that came before the council regarded site permits for seven trailers that Girardin would like to move into her trailer park.

Bringing in more trailers was something of a sore spot with former council members and board members over the last year.

Ordinances were fought in council meetings as Girardin agrued would limit her bringing in trailers.

"She’s been attempting to obtain site plan approval since May, but meeting recordings that go back as far as February of this year mention Girardin asking the council how long site plan approval should take.

By the McIntosh Land Development Code and the comprehensive plan, Girardin is allowed 49 trailers in Sportsman’s Cove. She currently has 42 on her lots.

When Sapp read the number of site plans approvals Giradin was asking for, seven, one audience member, Susan Phillips, actually gasped.

Singlewide trailers are rarely sold anymore which created a problem for Girardin when she decided she wanted to fill the empty lots in the park and she was seeking a variance to the code in order to fit trailers in her empty lots.

The BOA unanimously approved a variance for the remaining lots, allowing Girardin to put metal stairs and AC units on the setbacks, as long as the trailers she brought in fit on the footprint, the trailer-spot on the lots. The variance clears the path for Howell to approve the majority of her site plans.

Girardin will still have battles to face in moving in trailers to her empty lots, as council members Ciotti and Callahan pointed out after the meeting. But those hurdles will no longer be with the town of McIntosh.

posted by Cher @ 9:05 PM,

2 Comments:

At   October 27, 2006 9:01 AM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

I would really be interested in knowing why the Glass's and Philip's are so concerned about the condition of Casey's trailers? Are they really concerned about the safety of the people that may reside in these trailers or would it be just to cause trouble. It might be my imagination but if these people would deal with their own issues and let the town's reps and boards take care of these things that things in the town might be less controversial and problematic.

Furthermore, if you want to talk about run down trailers, lets take a walk to the trailer park over by cemetary road. I believe this is owned by the Glasses. Now let me ask, who is the pot calling the kettle black?

 
At   October 28, 2006 1:10 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

This is a case of their noses being so far up into other people's business, they don't see their own backyard.

 

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Editor and Publisher:

I'm Cher From McIntosh, FL I'm a graduate student at the University of Florida working on a master's degree in Mass Communication. While I was finishing my undergrad degree in journalism last year, I reported on McIntosh, Fla. for an in-depth reporting class. I figured that the reporting and the public record files should go somewhere people can access them. Reporters don't report to keep the information they find to themselves. Some of that reporting is included here in a forum that allows response. McIntosh suffers because with no news coverage, the local government and the rumor mill have too much potential to run rampant over residents. I moved to McIntosh in the fall of 1999. My profile

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