Carter County Commission to consider county-wide zoning

Photo by Dave Boyd
A Stoney Creek resident expresses her approval of county-wide zoning to protect landowners from unwanted businesses.
By Lesley Jenkins
star staff
The Carter County Courthouse on Tuesday afternoon was filled with county residents, mostly from Stoney Creek, who listened intently to hear what decision concerning zoning the county's planning commission would recommend to the county commission. After many passionate discussions about 1st District zoning, no one expected the next item on the agenda to be county-wide zoning.
After the planning commission voted 10-1 to recommend to the full commission not to abolish zoning in Stoney Creek, the next agenda item was a suggestion to zone the entire county. After a few moments of confusion about how the item was added to the agenda, planning members voted 10-1, with Commissioner John D. Snyder voting no, to add to the Oct. 20 county commission meeting an item to adopt county-wide land use planning.
"Anytime you consider zoning, and you look at partial, then you look at the full. If you look at the part then you look at the whole," said County Mayor, Dale Fair. "There's a lot of feeling that county- wide (zoning) would be more acceptable than partial."
Considering county-wide zoning at the planning commission level doesn't require a motion to add the item to the agenda, despite confusion. Planning Commission Chairman Bob Hughes and County Planning Director Chris Schuettler prepare the agenda for each meeting.
Since a decision to approve or disapprove county-wide zoning and to revoke zoning in the 1st district both require at least 30 days public notice, the two items will come before the county commission at the Oct. 20 meeting.
Audience members at the meeting voiced opinions about why they oppose or favor zoning in the 1st District. Commissioner Jack Buckles spoke to planning officials on behalf of his constituents. "The majority of people just don't want zoning. It has stirred up a bee's hive. But it's something the majority don't want, and this is the reason I motioned to send it back (to the planning commission for review)," he said.
Those who attended Monday's public forum on the subject questioned the authenticity of the survey that Buckles referred to when he quoted the majority of Stoney Creek. The survey has 667 opposing signatures and 185 favoring signatures. Buckles stated that he plans to have the survey certified by the Sept. 8 full commission meeting. Certifying the survey would require checking each signature to verify the signee is a registered voter, a resident of the 1st District, and a one-time signee.
Commissioner Jerry Pearman, member of the planning commission, questioned Buckles, "Have you had any problems in that district since you went under zoning?"
Buckles replied, "On the flip side of that you can't tell that anything has been done. This zoning effects me in no way personally. You're going to have to talk to people that it has affected. You can't really tell one way or the other."
When asked who, exactly, zoning has affected, Buckles said, "Some business owners here and there. I see some people raising their hands up in the crowd. I am sure they will let you know how it has affected them."
Bob Wilson, opposed to zoning, stepped forward and told the commission he is unhappy with the decision in 1999 to zone because the majority of the people in Stoney Creek were not represented, according to the 1999 survey which listed 779 residents opposed and 134 in favor.
"It has not affected me at all," he said. "If the majority would have wanted it I would never have questioned it."
One woman asked what would protect the 1st District from X-rated book stores or strip clubs in the area if the county commission rescinded zoning.
"Basically on that type of use, zoning is the only control that you have," Schuettler replied.
Buckles questioned this and said he would be surprised if a law could not be found to prevent the arrival of adult businesses in an unzoned area. "I do not believe that zoning is the only way to regulate that," he said.
Schuettler said some protection exists if alcohol is served in an adult-oriented business, but if an adult business has a "juice bar", it could not be stopped from entering an unzoned area. A "juice bar" would not serve alcohol but would still allow adult material, he said.
A two-thirds majority vote by the full county commission is necessary to abolish zoning in Stoney Creek. However, a simple majority vote is needed, according to state law, for zoning to remain in Stoney Creek.