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Board hires consultant to look at subdivision regs

Monday evening’s Lafayette County board of supervisors meeting got a bit heated when supervisor Mike Pickens saw on the agenda a request to hire a consultant to review the county’s comprehensive plan and subdivision regulations.

The board eventually tabled until its October meeting the hiring of Robert Barber of the Orion Planning Group to provide advice and consulting services related to the comprehensive plan. But it approved a motion from supervisor Chad McLarty to hire Barber for consulting work on the subdivision regulations. According to county attorney David O’Donnell, Barber will charge the county $130 per hour.

Pickens voted against hiring Barber, but not without first expressing his feelings to the board.

County engineer Larry Britt and O’Donnell defended the need to review the comprehensive plan that was passed in 2008 and the subdivision regulations that were approved last year.

Britt said he is tired of arguing with subdivision developers and homeowners over the subdivision regulations and believes some items need to be “tweaked” to make the regulations better. He also said it is time to have a consultant review the newer elements on the subdivision code to see if the county is doing everything correctly.

“The subdivision regulation review is something I think we’ve got a few errors,” Britt said. “Some things we need to shore up, get them tighter if we need to, loosen them up if we need to. The comprehensive plan, I think, has come about more that the city is re-doing theirs. They’re proposing things around town and perimeters that are out in the county.”

O’Donnell said most comprehensive plans are revised every five years.

“I know the guy who did it recommended every five years and he gets a pretty good fee to do it,” Pickens said. “And there’s a reason why he recommends doing that. And there’s another candidate running for office who says the county doesn’t have a plan, but we do have a plan.”

Pickens said, “We’ve had a few new subdivisions, but nothing that would cause us to go back and revisit the comprehensive plan.”

O’Donnell said despite the number of new subdivisions, some major elements were added to their regulations, and supervisors need to look at mobile home and RV parks that may not jive with current regulations. However, Pickens said zoning is the issue, not the comprehensive plan or regulations.

“I don’t think we can re-address the comprehensive plan and address those issues without zoning,” Pickens said. “We have danced around this for several years and I don’t see the comprehensive plan being the problem. The plan is in place as far as it can be without zoning.”

Pickens said the zoning need is furthered due to the desire for mobile home parks in the county.

“We’ve always allowed people to do what they wanted to on their own land. The comprehensive plan was put in place for a specific reason, to give guidance to the county,” Pickens said. “Your next step would be zoning, if you want to get further into governing what goes on in the county then I’m opposed to that. So if this board wants to move in that direction, I would be opposed to going back and revisiting the (comprehensive) plan.”

Britt said Barber recommended revisiting the comprehensive plan while dealing with subdivision regulations, particularly since the city is about to start implementing Vision 2037.

“He said it would be nice if it got updated at the same time and I said we’d talk about it,” Britt said. “We don’t even know what he’s going to address in the comprehensive plan, if anything. Y’all may say no he’s not going to do it and that’s fine. The subdivision regulation stuff needs to be updated because I’m tired of arguing with these developers, homeowners. They’re constantly calling.”

Pickens said the county didn’t need anyone’s advice when the comprehensive plan was developed “without an adviser coming in and shifting the blame to them.”

McLarty said he would still like to hear from Barber.

“I thought we could get it structured well enough going off what other counties and other municipalities have done,” McLarty said. “We’ve come into a few hurdles that I would love to hear someone else’s opinion on. And I’m not talking about spending thousands of dollars.”

“I don’t know the man, don’t know anything about him, don’t know his reputation and I’m not going to approve anything because I don’t know anything about him,” Pickens said. “If you’ve done your homework and you’re enlightened on your information, enlighten the board and we can make a decision.”

“I think our engineer is supposed to know and I wouldn’t think he’d steer us in the wrong direction,” board president Jeff Busby Busby said.