Controversial subdivision rezone approved by Walton County BOC after split vote

by chris bridges - the walton tribune

A controversial residential subdivision drew a full meeting room Tuesday, Aug.1, but, in the end, was approved in a split 4-3 vote among claims of the county caving under a threat of a lawsuit.

Lexes Homes representatives were seeking a rezoning of slightly more than 85 acres from A1 to R1 for a 64-home subdivision on property located on Snows Mill Rd. Previously the company had wanted to put 80 homes on the lot but was denied by the Walton County Board of Commissioners.

This led to an ongoing lawsuit which will now be dropped since the current request was approved Tuesday night. Virtually every citizen in the packed BOC meeting room was against the rezone citing various issues including concern for water quality in the area.

Candace Donoghue organized a push to prevent the rezoning approval and spoke passionately at Tuesday’s meeting. Her comments, at times, drew rebuttal from chairman David Thompson. When Donoghue was talking during the public hearing on the matter she would look at members of the large audience. Thompson told her to stop looking at the audience and to address the commissioners.

After the chairman chastised Donoghue multiple times, she told the chairman, “you are rude” and asked “will you stop it?”

She also read numerous negative online reviews of other subdivisions Lexes Homes has constructed. One said “I suggest you run as fast as you can from this builder.”

Donoghue also said Tuesday’s request was not valid since it had already been denied. She said the county should not cave because of a lawsuit and fight for the citizens, not developers.

“You did the right then,” she said. “Remember, what would Jesus do?”

Two other citizens spoke against the rezone when the comments were stopped after lasting approximately 30 minutes.

Citizens were also concerned that installation of septic tanks could possibly lead to contamination of the water supply.

Lexes representative said homes would be on lots no smaller than 1.3 acres. They will be brick homes and noted that have agreed to meet 17 conditions which exceed county requirements.

Some citizens continued to speak out before the vote was taken, speaking from their seats. One said Thompson should recuse himself from the vote since he owned property near the subdivision.

“That’s not going to happen,” he said and then made a motion to approve.

District 4 commissioner Lee Bradford said he wanted to make a motion since it was his district but Thompson said it was his district as well and did not allow another motion.

“I have been called a lot of things but the hateful talk tonight was not appreciated,” Thompson said.

When Thompson asked for discussion Bradford began to speak but was told by the chairman he was out of order.

“You can vote no,” Thompson said.

“You asked for discussion and I am going to give it to you,” Bradford countered.

“Alright, let’s have it,” Thompson replied.

“I do feel like R1 is uncharacteristic of the area on Snows Mill (Road)” Bradford said.

Thompson said: “That’s your opinion. There’s already subdivisions out there. There’s one that is 1-acre lots.”

Once the vote was called, commissioners Mark Banks, Timmy Shelnutt, Jeremy Adams and Thompson voted in favor with Bo Warren, Kirklyn Dixon and Bradford opposed.

The passing of the motion seemed to stun those in attendance. Thompson called a recess saying he was not going to listen to threats and lies. He asked for bailiffs to move in front of the commissioner’s table which drew a response of “he’s trying to threaten the citizens with this show of muscle.”

Citizens continued to voice their disapproval and Thompson said he had issues with people lying. He was then told to not respond.

Paul Roberts, who has lived in Good Hope for 50 years, shouted, “You better believe there is a money trail somewhere and I will find it.”

As members of the audience began approaching the commissioners table, with many seeking to thank those who voted against the motion, numerous Walton County Sheriff ’s Office personnel would not let them and motioned them to leave.

Outside of the historic courthouse, Roberts said he knew it was a “done deal” after talking with the chairman at Pot Luck Cafe in Monroe one morning. Roberts said he is considering a run for chairman and has already been asked to do so by some Walton citizens.

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