The regular meeting of the Pooler City Council was held on August 4, 2003. Mayor Buddy Carter called the meeting to order at 6:00 p.m. Present were Councilmen Robert Bryan, Travis Cowart, Jr., Wayne Seay, Stevie Wall and Councilwoman Billie Tyler. City Manager Dennis Baxter and City Attorney Steve Scheer were also present. Councilman Jack Brewton was absent.
The invocation was given by Mayor Carter and the Pledge of Allegiance was led by Councilman Cowart.
The minutes of the previous meeting were approved as printed upon a motion by Councilman Wall, seconded by Councilman Bryan, with no opposition.
Report from the Standing Committees:
Councilman Bryan presented bills for payment and made a motion to pay, subject to funds. Motion was seconded by Councilman Wall and passed without opposition.
Councilman Wall reported on the community service program and gave the police and fire reports, stating that the interviews for fire chief were ongoing.
Councilman Cowart reported that the street and drainage departments have performed routine maintenance and that 23 roads are going to be paved by the State.
Councilman Brewton was absent. Councilman Cowart reported that the water and sewer departments have performed routine maintenance and that the water department is seeking applications for the position of entry level maintenance/meter reader.
Councilman Seay reported that football and cheerleading practice has begun.
Councilman Seay stated that the committee is working on a revision to the employee handbook, that they are interviewing candidates for fire chief and commended the employees on the fine job they were doing, especially the grass crews.
Councilwoman Tyler reported that 33 new single family residential permits were issued in July, totaling 199 for the year, with 533 inspections performed.
Under OLD BUSINESS the following was discussed:
1. Approval of site plan for Fortune Plaza
Attorney Jennifer Dickinson and Stephen Staley, Engineer, addressed Council asking for approval of this site plan. Ms. Dickinson stated that all requirements have been met, with all comments being addressed, and that the city’s engineer has approved the plan. Mayor Carter asked Mr. Scheer if this project meets the requirement of the city’s ordinance which Mr. Scheer confirmed. Councilman Wall stated that the owner has the right to develop his property but that this project is not configured to minimize traffic and that it is unsafe. Ms. Dickinson questioned how it was unsafe. Councilman Wall replied that the project will maximize traffic in an area where a fatality has already occurred. Ms. Dickinson stated that the owner has done everything possible to address these issues and has worked with the community on their concerns. Councilman Wall reiterated that this project was not configured correctly. Councilwoman Tyler stated that the issues have been corrected, including reducing the number of parking spaces. Ms. Dickinson stated that the proposed site has more parking spaces than are required, with 2500 square feet devoted to office space and another 2500 square feet devoted to retail. Councilwoman Tyler further stated that no variances are being requested. Ms. Dickinson stated that the proposed tenants will be professional businesses, reiterating that the owner has met every requirement, and questioned the concerns, asking once again for approval. Councilwoman Tyler stated that the city’s number one concern was traffic at the intersection. Ms. Dickinson stated that the turn lane, along with the owner dedicating a 10' right-of-way, will address this problem. Further, that the traffic study shows that with the addition of a turn lane, there will actually be better service quality. Councilwoman Tyler stated that a turn lane will make people cut through the subdivision from Rogers Street to access Highway 80 at Skinner Avenue to avoid the traffic light. Ms. Dickinson stated that people are already using Skinner Avenue as a cut-off. Councilman Cowart stated that he has not seen where the traffic study states that a turn will reduce the hazard at this intersection. Mr. Staley stated that the traffic study brings the level of service back to at least where it was at or even better. Councilman Wall asked Mr. Scheer if it would be proper to go into executive session if there is potential litigation to which Mr. Scheer stated there is a possibility and that the Council may talk with him regarding legal advice during this time. Councilman Wall made a motion to adjourn to executive session at approximately 6:18 p.m. to discuss this legal matter. Motion was seconded by Councilman Bryan and passed without opposition.
Mayor Carter called the meeting back to order at 6:32 p.m. Mr. Scheer stated that the execution session was based on him receiving correspondence regarding potential litigation. Mr. Johnny Doonan, resident on Skinner Avenue, stated that this area is not able to handle additional traffic, that it is a “near miss” everyday and that 18-wheelers have no where to turn around when necessary to make deliveries to this site. Mr. Doonan asked for consideration to condemn the railroad property to make an access off Highway 80. Mr. Scheer stated that the railroad is protected from condemnation. Mr. Leo McDonald, resident on Skinner Avenue, stated that this project will create a serious problem and that it is not right to put this type of development on a residential street. Mr. Doonan questioned if anyone has spoken to the developer of the land behind Skinner Avenue to see if access could be granted through the property to Governor Treutlen Road, which was determined had not taken place. Ms. Sherry Ward, resident on Skinner Avenue directly across from this site, addressed the fact that there has never been a problem with water on her property, but cautioned that if concrete is put down, the water has to run somewhere. Further, that she realizes there is a drainage plan but that the entrance to this site is directly across from her house and she will not be able to get out of her driveway. Ms. Dickinson stated that these are generalized fears and are not rationally related to the city’s zoning ordinance. Further, that vehicles cutting through residential property is not an issue related to Fortune Plaza and that it is a problem that already exists, but the addition of a turn lane will improve the traffic and provide better service, that the property is zoned commercial, with no zoning change being requested and that these issues cannot be any reason for denial. Councilman Wall made a motion to deny the site plan for Fortune Plaza, based on the citizens and his belief that the plan is still not conformed to minimize traffic and that it is unsafe. Motion was seconded by Councilman Seay. Ms. Dickinson stated that denial of this request violates the State and Federal Constitution, especially cognitive of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Motion then passed without opposition. Ms. Dickinson then presented a copy of the “Reasons & Certifications” regarding this request to be made part of the record, reiterating that Council is violating the Constitution of the United States. Mr. Scheer informed Ms. Dickinson that her point has been established and that she has not waived any Constitutional issues. Further, that the Council based their decision on the configuration of this site, that they are not denying the owner the use of his property and that they have given the opportunity for the owner to meet with another property owner to discuss a better access which would have alleviated all of these problems.
Under NEW BUSINESS the following was discussed:
1. Request to change the conditions placed on the rezoning of the Wall property north of the Savannah Ogeechee Canal
Councilwoman Tyler stated that on May 6, 2002, a zoning map amendment was granted to Albert M. Wall (represented by the Savannah Economic Development Authority) for the property north of the Savannah Ogeechee Canal to I-1 (light industrial) and the property south of the Savannah Ogeechee Canal to I-2 (heavy industrial) on the condition that a brick fence be constructed extending 75 feet perpendicular to properties along the Country Homes Subdivision, leaving a 75 foot undisturbed buffer between the fence and the owners’ property. On June 2, 2003, SEDA and the Country Homes property owners substituted the following conditions in place of the original condition: (a) SEDA or any successor in title will be required to maintain a 75 foot buffer of undisturbed natural woodlands adjacent and parallel to Owners property; (b) If SEDA’s land should ever be developed, Dean Forest Partners, L.P. or any successor in title, will site a retention pond adjacent to the buffer; and (c) Payment by SEDA to Owners in the amount provided in Exhibit “B” of their Agreement. Councilwoman Tyler made a motion to approve these changes to the conditions placed on the rezoning of the Wall property on May 6, 2002. Motion was seconded by Councilman Wall and passed without opposition.
2. Approval of minor subdivision of a .824 acre tract on N. Moore Avenue
Councilwoman Tyler presented this minor subdivision and made a motion, based on Planning & Zoning and staff recommendation, to approve. Motion was seconded by Councilman Cowart and passed without opposition.
3. Approval of Final PUD of Forest Lake Amenities
Councilwoman Tyler presented the Final PUD for the Forest Lake Amenities and made a motion, based on Planning & Zoning and staff recommendation, to approve. Motion was seconded by Councilman Bryan and passed without opposition.
4. Approval of release of maintenance bonds for Westbrook Subdivision, Phases 2 and 3A
Mr. Baxter presented this request to release the maintenance bonds for Westbrook Subdivision, Phase 2 and 3A, stating that an inspection has been performed. Councilwoman Tyler made a motion, seconded by Councilman Bryan, to approve the release of the maintenance bonds. Motion passed without opposition.
5. Approval of minor subdivision of Parcel R-8, a 78.43 portion of International Paper Realty Corporation
Councilman Wall stepped down from his council seat. Mr. Baxter presented this minor subdivision of Parcel R-8, a 78.43 acre portion of International Paper Realty Corporation, stating that it is required for marketing purposes. Councilwoman Tyler made a motion to approve this minor subdivision. Motion was seconded by Councilman Seay and passed without opposition. Councilman Wall returned to his council seat.
6. John Kern regarding stipulation placed on recording a revision to Lot 3, SEPCO Subdivision
Mr. Mike Fell of Kern-Coleman Engineering addressed Council on behalf of Mr. Kern, stating that this plat was presented to Council on July 1, 2002, for approval with the stipulation that the driveway adjacent to this property would be improved. Mr. Fell stated that it has been determined that the gravel driveway is used mainly for forklifts and is sufficient for this type of traffic. Ms. Rebecca Benton stated that it is a substandard driveway and that the developer needed to bring it up to proper standards. Councilman Cowart made a motion to table this item in order to allow Mr. Kern to address this matter in person. Motion was seconded by Councilman Wall and passed without opposition.
7. Approval of temporary/special event permit for Ann Russell to dispense alcoholic beverages on September 19-20, 2003 at the Comfort Inn
Mr. Baxter presented this application for Ann Russell to cater a function to be held at the Comfort Inn on September 19th and 20th, to serve alcoholic beverages. Mr. Baxter stated that Chief Chan has recommended approval. Councilman Wall made a motion to approve this temporary/special event permit. Motion died due to lack of a second. Councilman Cowart then made a motion, seconded by Councilman Seay, to deny this request. Motion passed with Councilman Bryan and Councilman Wall opposing.
8. Adoption of millage rate for 2003
Mr. Baxter stated that the county has prepared the city’s tax digest and that the millage rate has been proposed at 3.669 mills. After discussion, Councilman Bryan made a motion, seconded by Councilman Cowart, to adopt the millage rate at 3.669 mills. Councilman Wall stated that he would like to see the millage rate left at 3.91 mills, based on the need for additional funds to handle the city’s rapid growth. Motion then passed without opposition.
9. Approval to waive permit fees for Wahoo Festival to be held September 23-28th
Mayor Carter asked that this item be removed due to the Festival being postponed until next year. This request was honored.
There being no further business to discuss, Councilman Cowart made a motion to adjourn at approximately 7:07 p.m. Motion was seconded by Councilman Seay and passed without opposition.