Upon receiving unanimous consent from the Madison County Planning and Zoning Commission for a zone change concerning 80.42 acres on Moberly Road, the Madison County Fiscal Court approved a motion to deny the zone change from R-7 (rural/agriculture) to R-1 (single-family residential) with the potential of building a new subdivision.

Magistrates Larry Combs, Roger Barger, John Tudor and Tom Botkin all voted to deny the zoning classification change with concerns, including extensive existing watershed and traffic issues. County Judge/Executive Reagan Taylor voted in favor of the zone change.

For over an hour, those for and against the change debated and discussed the concerns and questions presented at the courthouse Tuesday afternoon.

Valerie Himes, a real estate attorney in Richmond and representative of the property owner, spoke before the court first, making note of the planning commission’s approval, lack of single-family housing inventory in the county and the potential development’s ability to accommodate the county’s comprehensive plans.

She said that there was no legal reasoning or justification to deny the change, and that the area was “well suited for a residential decision.”

“We just want the best for this county,” she said.

Jay Webb, a surveyor, followed Himes contributing ideas for water diversion and retention plans to help address some of the public and magistrates’ concerns in regards to watershed along with a representative of the Madison County Home Builders’ Association who gave the economic impact of building homes in the area.

She stated the one-year economic benefits of developments similar to the one proposed are $18 million in goods and services locally.

“Those are the suppliers, the realtors and bankers but it is also the people who are working on site spending money back into the community,” she said.

Steve Riley, the former property owner of the farmland, came before the court expressing concerns about water, which he said would run into his grandmother’s home nearly 73 years ago.

“It’s never been dry,” he said in reference to standing water. “That is my main concern. But also, when I sold the property, it was to remain farmland, because I knew it wasn’t suited for anything else. It has been in my family for 73 years and I wanted it to maintain that. I don’t have a dog in the fight (anymore) for whatever happens, but my main concern is the water that is underneath the ground.”

Jack VanWinkle, who purchased the property, spoke saying he purchased the property with the intentions to help resolve the water issue.

“I’ve bought the property to help control it, with good intentions on my behalf,” he said. “Work with me, instead of everyone trying to oppose me, work with me, and let’s all get on the same page. This is a good development. I have sewer, I have water, I have the road, I have everything I need for a development.”

When it came time to vote to approve the zone change, all four magistrates voted against it, which Judge Taylor said would then prompt a motion to deny requiring a magistrate to present a “finding of fact” with a reason for their denial.

Magistrate Roger Barger, who voted against the zone change at its first reading, said that he would let “common sense take over” in making his decision.

“You can come up with all the finding facts that you have in the world, but when you get up like I do at 6 o’clock in the morning and go out to the red light, you can find it a fact that you can get out there, but you are going to get in line…

"It’s a finding of fact that if you don’t have rubber boots on and it’s been raining you cannot walk that ground. There’s water that’s there like no where else in the county. We can argue it all day. You’re a perfectionist, you know your job, but sometimes common sense takes over and there are places that you just do not build on. And if you are crazy enough to build on it, you are going to lose.”

The ordinance did not pass and could potentially be appealed by the applicant. "It is out of our hands at this point," Taylor, who was in favor of the zone change, said.

After all was said and done, Madison County Clerk Kenneth Barger rose from his seat at the table to speak “as a citizen” during the public comment portion of the meeting.

“I am over here as a citizen, not as a county clerk,” he said. “What took place here today — we all stood and took the pledge to the flag — and what took place here today infringed on another man’s rights to buy a piece of property and do what he saw fit…

"I have been to three planning and zoning trainings in my education in my nine years, and nothing that has to do with a zone change has to do with water, crawdads, traffic, nothing. What happened here today was, the findings of facts that came out of this, did nothing but make a solid, solid case for that side (the property owners) to sue this court. If that is what you feel you need to do to protect homeowners from crawdads in their front lawn, you have infringed on that man’s rights.”

Other business

• Jim Carr was approved for appointment of the county Utility Board.

• Katie Banks was hired as an administrative assistant at the county animal shelter for $13 an hour.

• Lauren Hobson was hired as an officer of the codes enforcement departments at $13 an hour.

The next fiscal court meeting will be Aug. 27, 9:30 a.m., at the county courthouse in Richmond.

Reach Taylor Six at 624-6623 or follow her on Twitter at @TaylorSixRR.

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