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Phillips Leads The 5 in 3-2 Quality of Life Split
Planning & Zoning Board Overruled

Posted April 17, 2015  07:20 am

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL –  Last night, The Columbia County 5, in a 3-2 split, led by Dist. 4 Commissioner Everett Phillips, turned back the Planning & Zoning Board (P&Z) and voted in favor of quality of life. The question before The 5 was:  should they overrule the P&Z's decision to change the use of 110 acres from very low density, 1 dwelling per acre, to industrial. Randy Jones, the County's Building Dept. Director, presented nothing locating the property during the public hearing.

Building Dept. Chief, Randy Jones

The County's P&Z head gave up nothing

The County's Building Dept. Director, Randy Jones, began the public hearing process by giving a bare bones explanation of the land use change. He explained that the P&Z unanimously approved it. He presented no maps so that the public could identify the location of the property. There was also none provided in the agenda material made available to the public.


       Richard Cole

The Developer: Richard Cole

Long time Columbia County developer and investment property owner, Richard Cole, came to the microphone and introduced himself. He said his property adjoins the County Industrial Park and everything on the North border is industrial. "I think it [industrial zoning] fits exactly the area where we put it."

Mr. Cole asked the County 5 if it had any questions. It didn't.

The People

      Tim Charron

Resident Tim Charron, who said he lived "just a few hundred yards away" told The 5, "I'm opposed to this. Me and my wife bought a home in this area almost three years ago. It's really our dream home. It's quiet; tranquil; we're concerned about contamination of our well water; now that you're rezoning the area for industrial it's really disappointing to us."

William Nettles also lived in the area next to the proposed rezoning. He told The 5 that the Planning & Zoning Board appeared to ignore a number of objectives listed in the Columbia County comprehensive plan.

    William Nettles

Mr. Nettles said, "Particular comments by the chairman left a lot of us feeling like the residents in that area weren't really given a very good hearing. This area has always been a combination of low density residential and agricultural uses. There are currently over 200 residences. I would also like to point out that there are three industrial parks within a mile of this property with a considerable amount of unused space. I request that you vote no on its approval." 

    Robert Comotti

Robert Comotti lives in the area. He told The 5, "We bought our house about 21 years ago. We picked that area because it was residential and agricultural. It's a hard thing to find something that is that close to town, but yet has those amenities. All the houses in that area are custom-built homes... If you put up an industrial park it's really going to reduce the value of those homes. When the developer bought the property, he knew it was residential and agricultural in that area."

Mr. Comotti asked that The 5 vote no for the rezoning.

Chairman DePratter asked if anyone else wished to speak. He looked around the auditorium. No one responded. The Chairman asked again, "Anyone else?" From the back of the room, "Yeah, I need to say somethin'."

Mr. DePratter, "Yes sir."

    Wendell Feagle

Wendell Feagle introduced himself at the microphone. He said he owned the property next door, Paradise Village Estates. "I have approximately 70 tenants. Most of them are retirees. They can sit out on their front porch and enjoy the peace and quiet. When you put an industrial park in that area - I don't care what anybody says - you're gonna' pollute the soil; you're gonna' pollute the air; and you are gonna' pollute the water system. That's exactly what's gonna' happen. I'm concerned about the noise factor. When you put an industrial park in there, you're gonna' have a lot of noise. You're gonna' have the forklifts popping from 5:30 in the morning, till five o'clock in the afternoon. Then five o'clock in the afternoon the second shift is gonna' come in and they're gonna' pop forklifts from five o'clock in the afternoon to 12 o'clock midnight. That's gonna' hurt my business and my retirees are not gonna' be very happy with that."

Mr. Feagle concluded, "The property zoning at the present time is for homes and agriculture. It should remain as homes and agriculture, not an industrial park."

Chairman DePratter gave Mr. Cole a chance to respond.

Mr. Cole said, "Everyone is assuming the worst case scenarios. That's just not fair. They're right. I don't know what it's gonna' be." Mr. Cole explained that he's been a developer in the area for many years and his developments have never devalued the property.

Seeing no other speakers, Mr. DePratter closed the hearing.

The 5

County Attorney Joel Foreman explains the process.

District 4 Commissioner, Evertt Philips, asked the new County Attorney, Joel Foreman, to explain the process.

Mr. Foreman said that it was up to the County 5 to decide and if they decided against the rezoning they had to have a reason. "Those policy decisions rest with you," he said.

Commissioner Phillips asked Building and Zoning's Jones if he took into consideration that the County has a 2,900 acre industrial park it is trying to develop.

Mr. Jones explained that wasn't the job of Planning & Zoning.

Com. Phillips said the industrial park the County is developing is not close to any residential development. Then he moved against changing the zoning.

Com. Scarlet Frisina seconded the motion.

Com. Ronald Williams asked if any professionals testified at the Zoning Board that the development would harm the area.

Attorney Foreman answered that he could recall no such testimony.

Com. Frisina said business and industry intruding into residential areas goes against "the feel of everything that is already there... There are already industrial parks out there."

Com. Frisina referenced an aerial photograph which the County did not provide for projection.

Com. Bucky Nash asked no questions and made no comments.

Commissioners Williams and Nash voted for the zoning change. Commissioners Phillips, Frisina, and Chairman DePratter voted against the zoning change.


The people in the area can continue to enjoy their homes and their expectations that when they bought their property for peace and quiet, it will stay that way, at least for a while longer.


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Richard Cole is or was a major member in the investment group that let the Blanche Hotel run into the ground. His claim his developments have never devalued the property is questionable. The Blanche is in foreclosure and falling into the ground.