County commission approves litigation tax; zoning issue postponed

Photo By Lesley Jenkins
Planning Director Chris Schuettler addressed the county commission Monday night with his Planning Commission report. The touchy subject of county wide zoning will be considered at the October 26 county commission meeting.
By Lesley Jenkins
Star Staff
During its monthly meeting Monday night, Carter County Commission members approved a new litigation tax, and County Planner Chris Schuettler recommended the Stoney Creek community remained zoned and that land-use planning be implemented county-wide.
The new $10 litigation tax per civil and criminal case shall be "used exclusively for purposes of jail or workhouse construction, reconstruction, upgrading, or to retire debt, including principal and interest and related expenses for same," according to the resolution which passed 20-1, with Commissioner John Lewis voting no.
Some commissioners voiced concern about how the tax money will specifically be used. County Mayor Dale Fair explained that, since the resolution states that the money must go toward the purpose of a new jail or reconstruction of the existing one, that the money would not go toward the general fund balance.
Planning Director Chris Schuettler reported to the commission the recommendation from the planning commission to maintain zoning in the 1st district. County Attorney George Dugger informed the commission that a 15-day public notice is required before the commission can vote on zoning in Stoney Creek. Enough time was not available before the September meeting, so the topic, along with county- wide zoning, must wait until the Oct. 20 meeting.
Some commissioners wanted to know why a referendum couldn't be held for the public to vote on county-wide zoning. Dugger explained that there was no statute in Tennessee law to hold a referendum. "We can't put zoning on the ballot," said Dugger.
Commissioner Tom "Yogi" Bowers said, "There is no statute that says you can't do it."
Dugger rebuttled, "You can't do something if the legislature doesn't allow it. The legislature has to give us the power to hold a referendum on zoning. You might like to have a referendum on a property tax. You can't do that. The legislature doesn't give you the right. You can't put it on the ballot. You can put a wheel tax on the ballot or sales tax but not zoning."
Commissioner John D. Snyder suggested that individual drop boxes be set up outside of voting booths where voters could write on a piece of paper their vote on county-wide zoning. The same technique was used in Johnson County years ago when the North East Correctional Center idea was discussed. This unofficial voting box could provide an insight to the opinion of the people in each district, he said.
Dugger said this could be allowed, but added that the next election would not be held before the October commission meeting.
"If the public in my district doesn't want it then I won't vote for it," Snyder said.
A public hearing will be held for each zoning topic at the next commission meeting.
In other business, the commission approved $8,000 to be given to the Election Commission office to hire another full time employee besides the administrator. The money will be used in addition to $12,000 the Election Commission already uses to pay its part-time employee. The part-time position will be upgraded to full-time to help the office perform duties in a more capable manner, according to commission members.
The commission also approved $214,900 to purchase eight new vehicles for the Carter County Sheriff's Department. The vehicles are fully equipped and ready to use. The motion carried 19-2.