Planning Commission defers zoning for new commercial development

By Heather Michon

A rezoning request for a proposed retail and commercial development on Lake Monticello Road has been deferred after members of the Planning Commission raised issues with their application package at their Tuesday meeting (July 12).

Joseph Jones of Wolfpack Properties has been holding extensive discussions with the Lake Monticello Owners Association (LMOA) and residents about potential uses for a 35-acre parcel located on Lake Monticello Road (Rt. 618) across from River Run Drive. 

He hopes to be able to deliver on two long-sought items on the local wish list: a 24-hour emergency or urgent care center, and a second grocery store. 

The property could also include substantial retail and office space, and provide an additional gate for access into Lake Monticello

The application to change the zoning from A-1 (Agricultural) to B-1 (Business) ran aground on two separate issues.

During the public hearing, local business owners Corven Flynn and Cyndra Kerley renewed their arguments that the county was not following stated procedures in the handling of zoning and planning applications. 

In this case, they said the documentation showed that the application was not submitted until after the proposal had been discussed with the Technical Review Committee (TRC). Under the checklist provided by the county, the proposal should only come to the TRC after the application package was filed.

Reviewing documents going back to 2019, Flynn and Kerley say there is a clear pattern of applications being submitted late in the process.

County Attorney Fred Payne and Director of Community Development Douglas Miles pushed back on some of these allegations later in the meeting.

Payne said that the checklist was developed under the previous department head as a way to help both applicants and staff move though the application process. 

He added that failure to follow these internal processes did not violate local ordinances or state statutes.

Miles said that he prefers to have several up-front discussions with potential applicants because there are fees and obligations that take effect once the application package is submitted, and he wants to make sure people understand the process before it begins.

A more serious issue for the commissioners was the lack of signed proffers. 

Proffers are specific promises made by the applicant to adhere to technical and design specifications. They are usually agreed to and signed ahead of public meetings on an application.

While Mr. Payne agreed that the unsigned proffers certainly indicated an intention to sign and follow them, “intention is not legally enforceable.”

Jones, citing discussions with county staff, indicated that he had misunderstood that the proffers needed to be signed before meeting.

To give him the opportunity to correct the package, the commissioners vote 5-0 to defer the matter until their Aug. 9 meeting. 

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