Thursday, December 13, 2012
Letters to The Editor
In case you didn’t know yet, an exciting book relating to Holly Springs has recently been published. The author is our own Margaret Delashmit, who not too terribly long ago wrote beautiful articles in The South Reporter about gardening and other topics. The South Reporter figures in her book, “Thief.” Also in there is Phillips Grocery, a bicycle shop, and many individuals that we might think we recognize, or at least wonder about.
It takes us back to the 1950s but the struggle to gain acceptance portrayed in the books is very much alive for many of us today. It’s one more of a growing number of fascinating literary works set in our town.
I believe they have copies at booksellers of Laurelwood in Memphis as well as online at Barnes and Noble and Amazon. The bookseller I refer to is the former Davis Kidd Book Store.
I believe Square Books in Oxford and Something To Read in Jackson, Tenn., has the book also.
I just wanted to get the story out. The book came out at the end of August 2012.
Response to article
The purpose of this letter is to respond to the article titled “OK of mini-storage heats up boardroom” (Nov. 29, 2012) written by Sue Watson. The reason I am compelled to write is to clearly define the issues and my position regarding the proposal/legislative process. The issues are as follows:
• Use of a special exception to modify Residential Estates property (RE) to Commercial (C2) bypassing C1 – The usage of special exception historically has been to provide property owners with either a hardship or duress (special circumstances) an exception to the zoning rules and regulations.
An example of a special exception that stands on its merits is that I need to take care of my elderly parent so I need an exception to zoning in order to move in a double-wide trailer on my property. What is the underlying hardship/duress for Drew Cothern’s request for a special exception to modify his residential property to Commercial 2 and bypassing Commercial 1 (C2 property is less restrictive regarding use and more valuable than C1)?
The motivation for the request is in order for Drew Cothern to make money by operating a commercial enterprise for his personal financial benefit at the expense of his relatives, friends, and neighbors with adjoining property. Their quality of life and property values would be adversely impacted by having a storage unit facility on an adjoining property.
Clearly this does not stand on its merits and it makes no sense that Drew Cothern, who lives out of state (he lives more than a four-hour drive away) and does not reside in the community, would be granted an exception to the detriment of the community for his own individual profit.
• The actions by the zoning board – at the initial zoning meeting the request was heard, a final vote was taken, and the request was denied 4-0 with an affirmative/final vote. Neighbors were notified in advance of the meeting, both sides were completely heard, the vote was final, and the issue was not tabled for further discussion or consideration. The normal process when your request has been denied by zoning is that you have the right to appeal the decision to the board of supervisors for reconsideration.
In this instance the exact same proposal was appealed to the zoning board (appealed to themselves) because Drew Cothern was upset by the rejection of the proposal with the first vote by the zoning board. At the second zoning meeting no one was notified that the vote previously taken was subject to be reversed. At the second meeting, Drew Cothern (the applicant of the special exception) was not present at the meeting and Chris Cothern Robinson (his mother, who is vice president of the First State Bank, Mt. Pleasant branch) spoke in support of the project. The project was re-voted on without the applicant present, no one opposed was notified in writing, and the project denial was reversed/approved 3-0. What is Chris’s motivation of her support of this proposal? She does not own property in the community so will the project benefit her financially on a personal level or is there a possibility for First State Bank to loan the business money so the bank can earn money on a loan?
• Conway Moore’s explanations – She stated that the second zoning vote was required because the Cotherns were not thoroughly heard at the first meeting. Why would they not have been thoroughly heard if Conway was in charge of running the zoning meeting? In addition, Conway says that the special exception is just for the applicant. With that said, if the Cotherns need to sell the business at a future date the next owner will not have an exception to operate a commercial business without the consent of the zoning board.
This makes absolutely no sense, because how would the property revert back to RE after the storage units are built? Would they have to be removed if the zoning board did not grant the next owner the same status? If this is a possibility, then no bank or individual in their right mind would loan this business money because this exception to the zoning regulation is not transferrable. The truth of the matter is that once the storage units are built they are there to stay and the property will not revert back to RE.
• Impact on local commercial property values – RE property sells for roughly $3,000 per acre and Commercial 2 property sells for approximately $40,000 per acre. Instead of creating the strife with friends and family in the community, why didn’t the Cotherns purchase property that is already zoned commercial? It is because it is all about money and they are doing it on the cheap.
The county does not owe the Cotherns a free pass to do as they please to the detriment of the neighborhood. As the property was inherited family property, by going this route, it saves them a significant amount of money at the expense of their neighbors’ property values, not to mention that anyone owning commercial property and having paid commercial property prices has been harmed.
Because of this ruling your property is not worth commercial prices paid, because any property can be converted with an application and a $30 fee. So, what the new owner of the gas station (Jim Holloway) which is only C1 should have done was buy the adjoining RE property, pay a $30 fee to have the property upgraded to C2, build a brand new facility, and saved several hundred thousand dollars.
This ruling will have an adverse effect on commercial property values and will actually hinder resale of established enterprises.
• A precedent is set – by approving an out-of-state, non-resident, commercial special exemption request that does not stand on its merits and is purely for the financial benefit of one individual in spite of local opposition, how can the zoning board deny any similar request going forward? Will the zoning board be able to deny future similar requests and they are really putting themselves and the county in a box by approving this measure. Not only does it not stand on its merits but it sends a bad message about the way business is conducted in Marshall County.
If this approval is allowed to stand and is condoned by the board of supervisors, then we really have no need for zoning and both the zoning department/zoning board should be eliminated to save the county money. In addition, as a voter and county taxpayer we would need to seriously consider the direction the county is heading and whether the leadership in place is up to the tasks ahead.
In conclusion, I am not against anyone wishing to open a business, nor am I opposed to the building of storage units as portrayed in the article. What I am opposed to is how the Cotherns and the zoning board are going about it. I recommend that the board of supervisors deny the special exception request and tell Drew Cothern there are other means available to build storage units. The best way to go about constructing a business is to purchase land that is already zoned for that purpose and he should be encouraged to pursue his dream. What the board of supervisors should not do is send this matter back to the zoning board as this would be a cop-out.
The zoning board heard all parties at the first meeting, declined to table the issue, and the proposal was unanimously rejected by a 4-0 final vote. The board of supervisors needs to state its position regarding this matter so all parties may obtain closure.
This letter comes expressing my appreciation and acknowledging the Management and Training Corporation who has taken over the operations of the Marshall County Correctional Facility.
I attended the first community relations meeting and was really impressed with the programs that are available to the offenders housed at the facility. The offenders are offered the following classes: GED, computer, life skills, horticulture, culinary arts, literacy, alcohol and drugs, long and short term. They are also assigned to various jobs in the different areas within the facility. Therefore, offenders have opportunities to be rehabilitated as well as learn skills in order to return to society and be successful.
The operational staff that worked during the transition were located next to my restaurant.
I found them to be very professional and cordial. Also, my hat’s off to the MCCF staff for their efforts, concerns, patience and caring for the welfare of the offenders and the community.
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