Thursday, February 21, 2008
County reviews subdivision covenants
By SUE WATSON
The county has tabled any appeals by individuals requesting permits from zoning to build a church in subdivisions with covenants that exclude churches.
Marshall County supervisors said they wanted to study the matter and get their attorney’s opinion.
Zoning director Conway Moore brought the concern before the board, saying some churches are asking to relocate in platted subdivisions, not on open land outside subdivisions.
“The subdivisions (residents) are having problems with that,” she said. “Most requests are coming from Districts 2 and 3, where churches are wanting to locate in subs.”
She said churches could be permitted in platted subdivisions using the exception process, but when zoning sends out letters asking for comments from subdivision residents who would be affected, zoning is bombarded with letters in opposition.
Individuals and churches still have a right to make a request for a permit to locate in a subdivision, said District 3 supervisor Keith Taylor.
“More and more are coming up,” he said. “We can’t go against the covenants. I’m a Christian and I’m not against the church. I just want to follow the letter of the law.”
Moore suggested supervisors could pass a two-month moratorium on churches want-ing to locate in subdivisions while the county attorney has time to study the matter.
“We went over fireworks stands, outlawed by DeSoto County and Olive Branch, trying to come over into Marshall County,” Moore said.
Taylor explained that some church groups buy a house in a subdivision to open as a church.
“The county opens itself up to a lawsuit if we do not follow the subdivision covenants,” he said. “This has nothing to do with what’s going on in the City of Holly Springs.”
He said some church groups want to locate in subdivisions because the lots are cheaper than in open land.
“It’s a real touchy subject with what happened in the city,” said chancery clerk Chuck Thomas.
Taylor said individuals were putting in ball fields with lighted parking lots in subdivisions in Barton.
He added that supervisors get lots of calls and complaints after zoning denies a request.
Taylor said if zoning gets letters of opposition when a church has requested to locate in a subdivision, the county has to side with the subdivision covenants.
“I’m for churches,” he said again.
Attorney Kent Smith advised the board that the subdivision covenants have to be honored.
Afterward, the board motioned to table the request until further study.
Supervisors then took up several other zoning matters. They passed a motion to rename a road off Goodman Road to Downing Street for E-911 address purposes.
The board then discussed citations for dog owners whose animals are misbehaving.
Smith advised that complaints relative to dog problems can be issued by affidavit in justice court until citation books arrive. He added that the language concerning the penalty phase for persons found in violation of the dog ordinance is still being drafted.
“There’s no state law that makes the violation a felony,” Smith said. “We are trying to make it a strong misdemeanor.”
Following these discussions, Sarah Sutton, a new resident of DeSoto Farms subdivision, addressed the board about ambulance and security issues.
On one occasion when her aunt tripped and fell, she called for an ambulance and a volunteer firefighter responded in his farm truck, she said.
“There was no way to transport her,” Sutton said.
Then on January 7, a neighbor called her house for assistance with an adult child with mental issues.
Sutton said her husband attempted to assist the neighbors while she called 911. Her husband was there for two hours and she placed three calls to 911, she said.
“They said, they’re on their way, don’t call back,” said Sutton.
She then called the Town of Byhalia and was told that the residence was outside the Byhalia service area.
Then Sutton called the sheriff’s office and talked to an officer. Officers were dispatched but all officers were out on other calls, according to Jimmye Dale Green, 911 coordinator.
“Where this puts me is very afraid,” said Sutton.
She added her concerns are magnified with situations in the county that turn to violence. She has considered putting her home up for sale after just a year and a half of living in the county, she said.
The final straw came when Sutton’s daughter had two seizures in January. She said she didn’t call 911 but instead drove her daughter for help.
“I don’t know if I was clear,” she added. “I’m not here to put a negative spin on this. I would like to help it get better in the violence situations and medical situations.”
“When you said our ambulance never showed up, that concerns me,” said Taylor.
“In a state of panic, I want to see an ambulance,” Sutton said.
In the case of the aunt who slipped and fell, Taylor said the EMR showed up in farming clothes (as a volunteer).
“There is a record of an ambulance that he stopped (from responding after the aunt decided she was O.K.). We try to cover it,” he said.
“I understand it’s a work in progress,” Sutton said.
Supervisor Ronnie Joe Bennett said emergency responders and law officers have to cover 710 square miles round the clock.
“We’re working on the best response time we can,” he said.
Sutton explained that she lives on the same street where a person was shot.
“When something like that happens, what can we do?” she asked. “I’m not here to complain; I’m here to say, what can we do to make it different?”
She said the EMR who responded in his farm truck was able to help with her aunt.
“But time is of the essence,” she said. “I realize time is the problem here but I didn’t expect a two-hour wait (for help).”
Taylor explained that the sheriff’s department does not have enough officers to cover everything.
“We don’t need to say there is nothing we can do,” he added. “We need to address the problem when we can find a way.”
Sutton asked why Byhalia could not help when there is no one to respond in the county.
Sheriff Kenny Dickerson commented that agencies run into problems with liability when they go outside their jurisdictions.
“And we get a lot of calls for little things,” he said. “Parents call to say their children won’t do things. Or Sylvester the cat gets up a tree. That uses manpower. It seems like anytime we get a budget (increase) we have a sponge that comes along and takes it up like water. This time the sponge is fuel costs going up $1 a gallon.”
Sutton expressed her appreciation to the board for hearing her concerns.
In other business, the board:
“If we bid some overlays now, we could perhaps get better prices if we bid several projects at once,” Britt said.
He said MDOT wants $45,000 for wetland they own at Strawberry Plains Audubon - $15,000 an acre.
“You have to create new wetland; it’s not existing wetland,” Britt said of the regulations.
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