City’s Mistakes Hampering Businessman’s Project
Anthony Bryant wants to build storage units but inaccurate maps and missing documents at Summerville City Hall continue to impede his progress.
He wants to construct five metal storage units on Montgomery Street near Hwy. 114. But inaccurate zoning maps, trouble locating sewer lines and bureaucratic red tape at city hall have gotten in his way.
“I don’t know what else I could have done to make it right. I thought I did everything I had to do,” Bryant told the Summerville City Council during a special called meeting Monday evening.
His quest started about six months ago when he approached the city for permission to build.
City officials blocked Bryant from building immediately. They said his Montgomery Street properties were located in a residential zoned area.
That zoning map, however, is incorrect, according to newspaper archives.
Bryant has documentation showing that a previous city council rezoned it for commercial use. That happened in 2003.
The city’s map appears to have multiple mistakes.
For example, Summerville United Community Bank officials asked the city to rezone one of its parcels. Behind the bank there was a lot zoned residential and they asked the city to rezone it to an “Office and Institutions” classification. The current map does not show that change.
That is just one example of several mistakes.
Ironically, Bryant’s rezoning troubles aren’t isolated to Montgomery Street. Although the city council rezoned his Hwy. 48 storage buildings as commercial in 2015, the zoning map does not reflect that change.
Despite the hiccup with the zoning, Bryant decided to push forward. He had one parcel, that was a newly acquired one that wasn’t part of the 2003 rezoning. Instead of rezoning that one parcel, city officials thought it was smart to rezone them all since there was some debate.
The city advertised the zoning change and alerted adjacent property owners.
“You all want everybody to come down here, but they aren’t coming. I just wonder if anybody went around that community to see what their feelings were,” Summerville resident Charlie Bennett asked the council.
The city either talked or left letters with adjoining property owners, according to City Building Inspector Joey Norton. The letter explained that Bryant was seeking to rezone his properties and notified them of the public hearing.
“They knew about the meeting. That’s all I did. My job was to tell them that the meeting was coming,” Norton said.
One Montgomery Street resident did attend Monday’s hearing. Ruth Warren told councilmen that she wasn’t in favor of storage buildings going up in her neighborhood.
“I just don’t like the idea of all those storage buildings being on the corner of our lot leading into town. That is one of my objections,” Warren said. “I would rather it not be rezoned and made into commercial property because I don’t think a whole corner lot of storage buildings. . .isn’t very enticing coming into the city. But it is a business and it may bring in money for the city. So I don’t know.”
“I was under the assumption that all the property I had was already zoned commercial. I purchased a 90′ x 100′ piece that adjoined it months ago. I wanted to add it to that same parcel. That was the piece I was mainly concerned about getting rezoned. Now it looks like everything is getting rezoned again,” Bryant said.
“I would say that everything is being rezoned, it’s just clarifying. You have a document saying those things were rezoned at some point. It just does not specify,” the building inspector said.
Bryant owns five parcels of land along one side of Montgomery Street. It’s the side across from The Crushed Tomato restaurant.
“I just wanted clarification for everybody. . . The maps are in the process of being redone,” Norton said.
“Are they in the process of making a new map that shows all of this is taking place?” Warren said.
“Yes. The map is handled through another agency. They have three guys in north Georgia that do all the cities and counties maps. I put [word] in and they are getting ours updated as it is right now,” Norton said.
When Councilman Buddy Windle asked the building inspector for a recommendation, Norton was hesitant. He said that his duty was to enforce the codes.
Council Windle made a motion to approve the rezoning and it was seconded by Councilman David Ford. It passed 4-1 with Councilman Earl H. Parris voting against it.
Although Bryant passed this hurdle with rezoning, he failed getting any further help from the council. He needed their help with relocating a sewer line that suddenly became problematic.
Relocating the sewer line could cost up to $90,000, but some estimate the cost around $22,000.
“Who is going to pay for this?” Windle asked.
“It would be our opinion that it would be improper for the city to pay for the commercial business and private citizen, using public funds to pay for one citizen’s commercial interest. Legally I think that would be improper,” City Attorney Melissa Hise said.
“Is it going to cost Anthony anything?” Windle asked.
“We would not advise the city pay for it,” Atty. Hise said.
“It’s not his fault,” Windle said.
“I’m not throwing anybody under the bus. But I came to the city six months ago probably and told them what I was going to do. I had a map and showed them what I was going to do. I knew there was a sewer line running right across the middle of the property. I knew that sewer line was there and I knew I could not build on it,” Bryant said.
He designed the storage units around the sewer line knowing that he could not construct anything on it, Bryant said.
“I went and talked with Terry [Tinney] and he told me there was a sewer line behind the creek. On my map, he said don’t build in this area. You could put a driveway on it. I’m not throwing Terry under the bus because I think Terry is just going by what was on a map. I talked with Terry two different times and he told me the same thing. The day I started to order the buildings, Terry was over here on a tractor on Washington Street working. I thought I would check with him one more time. . . “ Bryant added.
“As far as building on sewer lines, we cannot allow it,” Mayor Harry Harvey said.
“I know of places right now that are on top of sewer lines,” Bryant said.
“That may be the case. But us knowingly doing that, we cannot do that,” the mayor
“. . . And there are two lines that run through there?” Windle asked.
“Yes. I only knew of one of them. I’ve known it for years. But I don’t think the city even knew of the other one, where it was,” Bryant said.
“We knew it was there. We were off on the location,” City Public Works Director Terry Tinney said. “The map showed it in a different place than where it’s at.”
“You could not expend public funds to move a sewer line on your property just because you wanted to do something. It is a private enterprise that you would be supporting,” Atty. Hise said.
“Didn’t they find some way to get some gas to some chicken houses a while back?” Bryant said.
The council gave him no response.
The city does not have money allocated to move the lines, according to City Manager Janice Galloway.
“First. It’s not in the budget. We don’t have $90,000 laying around. But I hate it for Anthony,” Galloway said.
The mayor asked the council if they wanted to make a motion on helping Bryant. No one responded.
The council also addressed the rights-of-way and how close buildings can be constructed. Bryant said he needed a variance to build his buildings.
Instead of being 35 feet away from the right-of-way off Montgomery Street, Bryant wanted a reduction to five-feet away.
“That does not mean his building is going to be within five feet of the road edge,” the building inspector said.
Bryant said some of the porches on Montgomery Street that are in the right-of-way.
“To be honest with you, when you step out of the businesses on Commerce Street, you are stepping into DOT right-of-way,” Norton said.
“. . .I too am very much concerned about the setbacks. I do not recommend that we do the setbacks,” Mayor Harvey said. “There may be some future issues or future things that we are going to do. I don’t think we need to make any changes as far as setbacks are concerned.
“It just won’t be quite as long. The buildings that I’ve got ordered are a certain length. I measured from a certain point. . . .I’m not concerned with Hwy. 114. It’s toward the creek,” Bryant said. “If I can get toward the creek a little further I will be okay.”
Councilmen Parris and Windle voted to give Bryant the setback variance. The vote, however, failed 2-3.
Why isn’t this a surprise. Let’s be honest. There are more than a few morons that work for and run this city and county. This town and county could use more businesses and jobs, but things like this guarantee Summerville and Chattooga county will always remain a little Podunk speck on the map where all the opportunity and wealth is concentrated in the few Good ole boys and families that have always had it. I’ve lived here my entire 48 years and this place is a continuous embarrassment for it’s backwardness, inefficiency, ignorance, and unprofessional government . Chattooga county will never be much more than a bump in the highway until a lot of older people are replaced by younger blood that wants to see Summerville and Chattooga county move into the 21st century and out of the 1950s