Fayette County is closing the book on a long-contested rezoning request. Hearing the the request for the third time and facing a contempt charge, commissioners voted to approve the rezoning for 212 acres on Ebenezer Church Rd. and Davis Rd. for a single-family subdivision of 91 lots.
“As your lawyer, as the litigation counsel for this matter for the Board, the judge’s order defines your obligations,” said Chris Balch. “It’s time to finally put this saga to bed.”
The petition from TSTT Investments out of Marietta for flexible PUD-PRD zoning that would allow for lot sizes ranging from one to four acres was initially denied in July 2016. The petitioners fought the commissioners’ ruling in court, with Fayette County Superior Court Judge Christopher Edwards coming down against the county and demanding the BOC rehear the request.
In his April 11, 2018 ruling in TSTT Investments v. Fayette County, Judge Edwards sided with the petitioners, saying that the BOC’s ruling unfairly limits the economic viability of the property.
He cited the petitioners’ expert, a development consultant, who said the property could not be developed under A-R or R-80 for any “economically-viable” use. He sided with the plaintiff in calling the A-R zoning district “overly restrictive,” whereas he lauded the PUD-PRD zoning and its more flexible one-acre lot minimum for its flexibility.
“Plaintiff presented credible, clear, and convincing evidence that the A-R district’s restrictions, as well as the R-80 compromise suggested by the Planning Commission, render the Subject Property worthless from an economic standpoint,” the ruling said.
The county appealed to the State Supreme Court, but they declined to hear the case, tying commissioners’ hands on a critical rezoning case.
In August 2018, commissioners approved a different zoning option with minimum two-acre lots that are in keeping with the surrounding area, but the developers contended that the land would not be profitable for them at that size. Their studies said that the topography of the land would limit them to 41 lots.
Neighboring residents again asked commissioners to deny the request and keep fighting.
“Profits and development are good. They have made this country what it is. Greed and bullying through the courts are not,” said Amanda Patterson, noting that it was the developers fault that they engaged in risky and unwise land speculation.
Chairman Randy Ognio lamented that they were left without any options.
“We fought the fight. We’ve done everything we could to this point,” he said. “We’ve got to abide by the order.”
Commissioner Edge Gibbons asked County Attorney Dennis Davenport what would happen if they voted to deny the request again.
“Nothing good,” said Davenport. “If this goes back to the judge because the third attempt failed, I would find it difficult to believe there would be a fourth attempt, and it wouldn’t be a good situation for the county.”
In end-of-meeting comments Gibbons said he suspected his colleagues would have denied the request if it was a viable option.
“Obviously our hands were tied.”