Lanier Sims served as Vice Chairman of the Board of Commissioners as Keith Ellis was absent from the public meeting Tuesday, leaving a four-commissioner board with the possibility for a 2-2 tie.
That’s exactly what happened during a zoning vote concerning a variance request for a 150-foot microwave cell tower to be constructed on a residential property. However, with a vote on the request to change an ordinance at 2-2, Sims elected to consult legal in what the proper procedure would be for overturning a decision made by the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA).
Since the BZA denied the request for 52 Eighty to build the telecommunication tower at 10816 Old Atlanta Highway near
Hawkins Drive with residences less than 450 feet away, county attorney Tommy Craig advised a vote in favor of the variance would require written justification.
Sims then requested a new motion from Commissioner J.C. Henderson, who requested to push the vote back to the next meeting, Monday, Nov. 3. That motion passed 4-0.
Ellen Smith, the attorney for 52 Eighty presented the case for building the 150-foot tower, saying that the shape of the property doesn’t allow for a 450-foot buffer for a residential building. The tower already received permission for a variance for the 100-foot buffer required for a residential property line.
After Smith’s presentation as the proponent of the tower, the opposing side had its chance to present their case.
Kevin Hawkins, whose father owns the two nearby properties, in which the variance is meant to circumvent, spoke next. He voiced his concern on the resale value of the property due to the height of the tower.
Several citizens also spoke in opposition of the variance, stating that a precedent of variances is not good for the community.
“What’s at stake is Newton County’s future,” Newton County resident Gladstone Nicholson said. “You have a situation which could easily be remedied by the private sector if they saw fit. But they said ‘let’s see if we could go to the county, if we could get a variance. In a card game, you never want the house betting against itself, that’s what we’d be doing.”
After Henderson made a motion to approve the variance, seconded by Levi Maddox, John Douglas voiced his opinion against it.
“I’m going to be pretty stingy when it comes to variances,” Douglas said. “Variances are what is important to me. I’m going to be very stingy when and if they come up.”
Nancy Shulz also voted against the variance.
"I am very sensitive to both sides of the discussion, and I certainly appreciate personal property,” Shulz said. “I’m very uncomfortable that this is piece of property is zoned residential.”
Day care zoning
The Newton County Board of Commissioners redefined daycares in zoning ordinance 102114 during Tuesday’s public meeting.
According to the new definitions, a day care center is any place operated to provide care for seven or more people. A day care facility is any place operated to provide care for six or fewer people.
The motion to amend the definitions was passed unanimously, 4-0.
“What we have now is a good ordinance,” Commissioner John Douglas said after the vote. “What you have got there is an ordinance that will work; it’s not overly restrictive but at the same time not open the gates for anyone to do just anything.”