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.

02.14.07 -- REPORT: Rezoning issue comes full circle

By CHER PHILLIPS

Last week, the McIntosh Town Council heard a recommendation from the LPA that they could rezone agriculture land belonging to Mayor Marsha Strange, Council Vice President Howard Walkup and Bill and June Glass to R1.

Between Jan. 30 and Feb. 12, the LPA meeting, in which the citizen board voted to recommend rezoning, became an "unofficial" meeting. Before board chairwoman Charlsie Stott gave her findings to the council, she asked if she should since the LPA did not have a public hearing on the issue.

However, at no time during the LPA meeting was the committee informed the subject matter they were voting on was "informal." This determination was made after the fact.

While the meeting wasn't a public hearing, four of the town's five council members were present. Two council members commented during the rezoning portion of the LPA meeting. Council President Frank Ciotti's questioned the amount of development that could be potentially opened up by the rezone. Councilwoman Eva Jo Callahan asked if the land was within the city limits. The three property owners in question were present at the meeting, while other property owners were not present, nor were they included in this first "testing-the-waters" phase of the process.

This point was not brought up in either February council meeting.

While the matter of rezoning isn't as pressing as it seemed two weeks ago, it seems to remain a potential agenda item for McIntosh. After Stott made the LPA's recommendation on the first day of the February council meeting, Councilman Lee Deaderick tabled the issue of rezoning, saying that ultimately the subject could take up an entire workshop meeting.

This tabling came after a discussion launched on who should pay the rezoning fees. If the town initiated the rezoning, then it would have to take on the burden of advertising the changes, paying a planner -- Bruce Day -- to look into the impacts of such zoning and other administrative fees that come up.

If the property owner posted it, he or she would foot the bill.

Initially, during the Feb. 8 meeting, council members batted around the idea of the town paying to rezone land belonging to two elected officials and one citizen board member. This drew the criticism of one town resident, Steve Race, later in the meeting. Race was meeting some resistance when asking the council for financial assistance solving a drainage problem the board had previously voted to help him with. He made note during the meeting to the council they were willing to entertain the town paying to rezone their own land, but not willing to help him with his problem.

Later, during the continued meeting, the mayor asked to readdress the issue and told the council that as long as the town was having financial difficulties, she suggested any rezoning be paid for by the property owners.

Looking at the question of rezoning in McIntosh requires looking back at the issue over the last two years.

Just going back a month begins to tell a little more about the story.

In the January 2007 town council meeting (Jan. 11, audio file 2:11:38 to 2:16:00), Walkup asked Town Clerk Debbie Miller to put agriculture rezoning on the agenda. Councilmen Ciotti and Deaderick both questioned in that meeting how that topic got on the agenda.

Ciotti said, "I have no idea where that came from."

"Where did that land density come from?" Deaderick said.

"That came from Howard," Miller said.

"A long, long time ago, we asked the LPA to consider changing the Land density from 110 to 2 in 1, then they hashed it back and forth and came back with a 1 in 1 with 150 frames, I remember all that," Walkup said. " I don't know whose court it's in now. I spoke to Scott about it the other day and he was almost of the opinion that we needed to start over.

Attorney Scott Walker said he couldn't remember if it was turned over, or denied.

"If it's in the council's court, maybe the council can go ahead and vote on 1 in 1 with a 150 foot frontage and that sort of thing. If that's what the council wants to do," Walkup said. "If it's in our court. I'm in favor of sending it back to the LPA and asking them to start over with it and do what they originally recommended."

"Residential estate is what we called it," Ciotti said.

Deaderick made a recommendation that the LPA look into rezoning and bring them any recommendations they might have. He said for them to "send us something of what they'd like to see. "

A motion passed unanimously to have the LPA reconsider zoning from Agricultural to R1, with Walkup voting to have the LPA looking at rezoning his own land.

In the past, when the issue of rezoning this land came up, minutes show that Attorney Scott Walker advised council members not to vote when their own land was involved. For this reason, many of the votes over the last two years show Walkup and former council member Danaya Wright abstaining from the decision-making process.

Why Walkup initiated rezoning and voted to have the LPA consider what to do with his land this year is not known.

What is known is a story told through the McIntosh public records.

In the March 2005 meeting of the town council, when Danaya Wright tried to vote against a general rezoning of land from agricultural to residential, then Council President Charlsie Stott and Attorney Scott Walker stopped her. (March 2005 minutes)

At that time, minutes show that Wright expressed concern because the rezoning was bring fast-tracked. Mintues show she said she wanted the LPA to establish the standards in the McIntosh codes for development before the land was rezoned.

At the time, Day had been hired to help bring the codes up to date.

That year, public hearings were held to consider rezoning to a special land use called residential estate. (May 12, 2005)

Different zoning types were considered and argued back and forth including agriculture 2, residential 1 and something called residential estate.
On June 21, 2005, letters were sent out to the five property owners about the AG2 rezoning. (July meeting) This set in motion another recommendation to the LPA that a new AG2 category be created. When an issue of rezoning is being considered, neighboring property owners must be notified.

The issue at the time was not unlike the current struggle over the historic ordinance.

Council members Wright and Strange read letters into the record from the following residents showing concern over the zoning at the August 11 meeting: (August 11) the DiMellas, the Phillips', the Westergards, the Fellmans, the Glasses, the Weitners, the Aults and Sean Dowie and Tammy Flagg.

Even back then, Marsha Strange said she had no intention of developing her property.

Eventually, the original intent to rezone changed from three owners seeking a zoning change together when Walkup decided to seek zoning on his own that fall.

Yet, even that came to a halt only days after the new council took the helm. During the Nov. 10 council meeting, Wright, Ciotti and former Councilman Joe Phillips voted to deny Walkup his zoning change. (Nov. 10, 2005)

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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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