Commission Preview

Giles County’s Land Use Management Plan will remain in effect for two more months to give the Giles County Commission a chance to determine what to implement in its place should it be rescinded.

The issue came before the county commission at its monthly meeting Monday after the Giles County Planning Commission voted in June to recommend the land use management plan be rescinded. The planning commission had worked on finding a replacement or fix for the land use management plan for approximately one year before voting to rescind it.

Most county commissioners who spoke on the matter acknowledged that the county’s land use management plan, which has remained unenforced since it was adopted in 2003, is flawed and in need of fixing or replacing.

However, many commissioners expressed their concerns with rescinding a plan with nothing to replace it, leaving the county vulnerable with no regulations for nuisance industries that might look to locate here.

Commissioner Roger Reedy said if the plan was rescinded with nothing in its place it would “send a signal to interloping companies.”

Several commissioners pointed out that the current land use management plan has been deemed unenforceable and fraught with legal issues that could get the county sued.

Others said they believe state and federal laws could protect Giles County from the types of nuisance industries from which protection is sought.

Reedy, who also acknowledged that the plan as it is has problems, noted that state and federal laws do not generally protect counties. He suggested his fellow commissioners consider leaving the plan in place until they can come up with an alternative.

Commissioner Tommy Pollard said the land use plan is a tool for the rich and powerful to penalize the poor and middle class in Giles County.

Commissioner Gayle Jones called the land use management plan “an illusion” that gives the county no protection.

During the discussion, Giles County Executive Melissa Greene explained from her understanding what the intent of the land use management plan was.

She said, as far as she’s been able to determine over the past year, the intent of the plan when it was passed in 2003 was that all the property in unincorporated areas of Giles County would be designated Farm, Agriculture, Residential until something came in and then the designation of the land would change.

A map referenced in the plan has been located, according to Greene, who said there are no zones or designations on what she described as a blank road map. Greene said she doesn’t know if this type of zoning can be done.

Commissioner Mike Cesarini said he believes the land use plan has been successful because there have been no nuisance industries locate here over the past 17 years and the plan held up in court. 

He also asked why the commission would discard the plan with nothing to take its place while hoping the state will protect the county.

Gayle Jones said the county wouldn’t be asking the state to take care of it, but taking advantage of state laws that allow for the regulation of nuisance land uses that could address many of the fears that brought about the land use management plan in the first place.

She restated that trust in the land use management plan is misplaced, calling it spot zoning.

Jones did, however, come back with a compromise in the form of a motion to postpone rescinding the land use management plan for two months to give the county commission time to study the nuisance law and how it could be written.

Commissioner Erin Curry, who is chairperson of the planning commission, agreed with Jones’ motion, saying two more months in the grand scheme of things is not much, if a resolution can be found that works for Giles County.

“We need something but what we have is not it,” Curry said.

Greene told commissioners that the reason the issue of the land use management plan came up over a year ago was because she received a call from a citizen who wanted the plan enforced against a commercial kennel at a private house.

Calling the plan a problem for the county and big problem for her, Greene stressed that she’s responsible for trying to enforce a land use management plan that everybody she’s talked to believes is unenforceable, leaving her with nothing to back her up on any decision she might make.

“What do we do in the meantime if we keep this?” she asked. “What do I do when I get a call and I get them weekly.” 

Greene said she fears the county will end up in a lawsuit with the plan in place whether it is enforced or not.

Pollard stressed that he would like to see the commission rescind the plan now.

Jones’ motion to postpone rescinding the plan for two months passed 11-10. Voting to postpone rescinding the plan were commissioners Billy Cary, Curry, Joyce Woodard, Cesarini, Rodney Journey, Reedy, Brad Butler, Gayle Jones, Joseph Sutton, Larry Worsham and Judy Pruett. Voting against postponing the vote were commissioners Stoney Jackson, David Wamble, Tracy Wilburn, David Adams, Tim Risner, Duane Jones, Pollard, Rose Brown, Harold Brooks and Terry Harwell.

Charitable Funding

The county commission approved non-profit funding for the libraries in Minor Hill ($1,854) and Campbellsville ($1,400) as well as $10,000 for the Giles County Senior Citizens Center.

These non-profit organizations had not been approved to receive non-profit appropriations during the recent county budgeting process because their applications were not received by the April 15 deadline.

While some commissioners said the organizations should have followed the rules set by the budget committee concerning the process, others said COVID and other extenuating circumstances should be taken into consideration.

“Some did follow the rules and weren’t funded,” Commissioner Joyce Woodard said, adding that the Senior Citizens Center got a new director who was not aware of the process or the rules. “I think it was a mistake not advertising the deadline like we’ve been doing. The deadline should be advertised just like the city advertised theirs.”

A motion to give the Senior Citizens Center $20,000 was narrowly defeated, then the motion to give the Senior Citizens Center $10,000 as well as funding the two libraries the amounts they had requested passed by a vote of 13-8. Voting to fund the Senior Citizens, Minor Hill Library and Campbellsville Library were commissioners Woodard, Wilburn, Adams, Cesarini, Risner, Butler, Gayle Jones, Pollard, Brown, Sutton, Brooks, Harwell and Pruett. Voting against were commissioners Cary, Curry, Jackson, Wamble, Duane Jones, Journey,  Reedy and Worsham.

The funds will come from the county’s general fund balance.

Memorial Marker

The commission approved placing the James Monroe Brown Memorial Marker on the Courthouse grounds by a vote of 20-1.

Gayle Jones, who voted against the marker, said she is not opposed to acknowledging the efforts of county citizens who have dedicated their lives to good causes, but noted that without a long-term plan, the county commission could face unending requests to put similar types of markers on the Courthouse lawn.  

In other business at its monthly meeting Monday, the county commission:

• Authorized amendments to the 2021-22 county and school system budgets.

• Heard from Giles County Economic Development Director David Hamilton on unemployment and EDC projects.

• Heard from State Rep. Clay Doggett on the recent state legislative session.

• Heard from Charlie Curtis, director of the Tennessee County Commission Association.

• Heard from Misty Jones concerning the history of her family’s business and the effects zoning would have on new businesses starting in the county. She asked commissioners to vote to rescind the land use management plan.

• Elected new Notaries Public.

• Re-elected Edward Durant, Randy Keene and Robert London as Giles County judicial commissioners.

• Approved county department reports and contracts and agreements.

• Approved the establishment of a committee for resale of land bought at delinquent tax sales.

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