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Council rejects RV Park, approves youth council

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    Property owner Gary McElhenney told the Eatonton City Council on Monday that he opposed a proposed rezoning for an RV Park. He said traffic issues and the potential for illegal drug sales could be a problem. MARK ENGEL/Staff

The Eatonton City Council Monday night unanimously denied a zoning request that would have allowed a recreational vehicle park to be constructed on 26 acres of land behind Ingles supermarket in Eatonton.

The proposed park would have provided up to 125 short-term RV parking spaces and hook-ups for travelers along the Highway 441 bypass.

At Monday’s meeting, Gary McElhenney, who owns property near the site, voiced concerns about the plan. He said there were traffic concerns as well as the potential for the park becoming a location for mobile illegal drug operations.

“I grew up out there back in the 50s,” he told the city council. “It’s my home place. I raised my family out there. I just don’t want to see the beauty of that area destroyed by an RV Park.”

Kenneth Beall, speaking for the developer, emphasized that this would cater to an upscale traveler.

“The average cost of a recreational vehicle these days starts at about $75,000,” he said. “So the people that have the wherewithal to have vehicles that start at that price, some will be $250,000 and $300,000, are simply not going to turn into the type of situation that Mr. McElhenney was suggesting was going to happen to this property.”

The request to rezone the land from A-1 (Agriculture) to C-2 (Commercial) was approved in October by the Planning and Zoning Commission, but City Councilmember Teresa Doster, who heads the City Council’s Zoning and Ordinances Committee, said her committee opposed it.

“R-2 (Residential) is on either side,” Doster said. “Both on the other side of the by-pass and on the backside of that property. I think our intent for that area should be C-1 and not C-2. That was the vision, of it being retail and not necessarily many of the things that were allowed in C-2.”

Council’s denial was a setback for property owner Penny McChesney, who told the The Eatonton Messenger that her family has owned the land for over 100 years. She said the sale was contingent upon the rezoning, which has spoiled her plans for the money she would have received.

“This was going to go into my grandkid’s college fund. That and the church.”

City council approved plans to set up an Eatonton Youth Council Program. Similar to leadership programs offered in Eatonton and other cities, the program would provide civic experiences to groups of high school aged kids. The council’s actions provided for the setup of a student advisory board and a timetable that could start the first class of students as early as January, subject, of course, to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m excited about this,” said Councilmember Janie Reid, who is spearheading the effort. “I think this is going to benefit Eatonton in the long run for years to come. You’re going to see great dividends from this program.”

Council heard a proposal for the establishment of a Stormwater Utility for the city of Eatonton. This would be a tax on residential and commercial customers based on the contour and make-up of their property and how that would affect erosion and damage caused by water runoff during rainstorms.

“The mayor did want to hear from them related specifically to some of the stormwater issues we are facing that have been brought to the council’s attention,” City Administrator Gary Sanders said.

Such a tax would fund or serve as a local match for government grants or loans to make necessary repairs for affected property. The presentation was for information only and the council took no action.

Separately, a public hearing prior to Monday’s meeting dealt with a government grant of $750,000 for street and drainage improvements in the South Jefferson Avenue Neighborhood. No members of the public signed up to speak.

Also, at Monday night’s Eatonton City Council meeting:

- It was announced that the Executive Director of the Plaza Arts Center, Roger Harrison, resigned on Monday, November 9. No reason was mentioned but PAC Board member Mark Street said a search is underway for his replacement.

- The Plaza Arts Center was given approval to sublease the theater to the county to be used as a jury selection room for the Grand Jury and Superior Court. The county’s current facility is not large enough to socially distance potential jurors while they wait for jury assignments.

- Mayor John Reid announced that a contract has been signed that would locate a new Tractor Supply store next to the Dollar Tree. It offers products for home improvement, agriculture, lawn and garden maintenance, livestock, equine and pet care.

- Councilmember Janie Reid reminded everyone that the fire department is collecting toys for needy children.

- She also told everyone that applications for the Eatonton Home Christmas Decorating contest are coming in. “There are a lot of people who are looking forward to this. The more the merrier!”