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Statham Lake area residents disappointed in Planning and Zoning Commission decision

The Sumter County Planning and Zoning Commission met on March 25, 2021 to discuss rezoning of 60 acres in the vicinity of Statham Lake, off Highway 19 in Americus. The property owned by Sue Statham is scheduled to be bought by Inmar Solar for the purpose of installing solar panels. The current zoning is designated residential, or R-1. The purpose of R-1 property is to encourage construction for single-family dwellings, prohibit commercial use which would interfere with the maintenance of single-family dwellings, discourage significant traffic as well as additional requirements for public services.  The purpose of an industrial zoning, or I-2, is to provide for the development of commercial/industrial establishments which may cause nuisance. Typical uses are manufacturing, assembling and fabricating. Reasonable regulations can be placed on these areas as to not cause adverse effects on residential or other commercial properties. I-2 designation is designed for firms that process raw materials, store toxic substances, require substantial quantities of water or engage in slaughtering animals. Some of the permitted uses are for junk yards, manufacturing, receiving towers, smelting and meat packing.

In the public hearing, 2 people, the current owner of the property and the lawyer for Inman Solar presented their support for the rezoning to I-2. The owner spoke of the financial need of the family to insure they could pay taxes going into the future. The lawyer spoke of the increased tax dollars rezoning would bring the county as well as the benefit of having the company using the site as home to the panels.  Speaking against the rezoning was the attorney representing homeowners as well as several residents. Some of the concerns were toxins that would be produced and ultimately end up in the lake, the placement of the farm would cause property values to decline, the farm would make selling their home more difficult, to rezone would open Sumter County to a lawsuit, and unlike other solar farms in the county, this is a small farm effecting a large number of people.

The committee is made up of Kimberly Page, Leon Walker, Gary Houston, William Baldwin, Margaret Goodin and  Kenny Phillips. Present for the meeting were 4 members and the chairman. The vote to rezone to I-2 was passed 3-1, with some members of the commission not present. After voting to rezone, the commission then voted to limit the zoning change to only house solar farms. This vote was unanimously passed.

The vote to change the zoning was met with the displeasure of the residents on the call who had requested to committee to deny the rezoning. Since Robert’s Rules of Order allow the commission to revisit the vote if the meeting has not been gaveled adjourned, both the lawyer for the residents as well as the residents once again asked the commission to reconsider the vote. The vote was not taken up again prior to adjournment.

The recommendation the zoning be changed to I-2 will go forward to the Board of Commissioners and should come up for a final vote during their regular meeting on April 13th. If you have any concerns or would like to voice your opinion on the matter, please contact your representative. The Americus Times-Recorder will be following any developments on the matter and will report the results of the vote taken by the Board of Commissioners.