Weyerhaeuser files appeal against Board of Commissioners decision
Weyerhaeuser Real Estate Development Company is vying for another chance to find a home for a new subdivision on a 285-acre tract of land just outside Rutledge city limits.
Attorneys representing the group have filed an appeal against a decision handed down by the Morgan County Board of Commissioners in January that denied Weyerhaeuser a zoning request necessary to begin development of the subdivision. The rezoning application called for a change from the land’s current designation as AR (agricultural) to R-1 (residential) with the intention to utilize a "conservation use overlay" policy while developing the land.
Though developers for Weyerhaeuser stressed that the subdivision would harbor large wooded buffer areas keeping most homes from sight on neighboring Fears Road and Davis Academy Road, the proposal was met with some opposition at its original hearing in the Morgan County Planning and Zoning Committee meeting and at its hearing during the Board of Commissioners meeting.
Residents living nearby the planned subdivision complained of possible increases in traffic and an overall decline in their quality of life should the subdivision be built.
During January’s Board of Commissioners meeting, the rezoning request was denied in an unusual 2-1 vote. Newly elected Commissioner Ricky McGinnis motioned to deny the request, and was seconded by Commissioner Curtis Butler. However, while McGinnis and Commissioner Chester Thomas voted to deny the request, Butler actually voted against the motion. Commissioner Mack Bohlen chose to abstain from voting.
The vote process is one of several points of interest in the Weyerhaeuser appeal. The appeal cites that the motion to deny Weyerhaeuser’s zoning request was voted on by "less than a majority vote", a fact that stands in contrast to a requirement stated in the Morgan County Zoning Ordinance that "all action by the County Commission ‘shall be by a majority vote’".
The appeal also attacks the Zoning Ordinance itself, stating that the ordinance is "unconstitutional" in that the Weyerhaeuser group was denied its right to due process in making its zoning request. Much of this issue centers on the timeliness of the zoning request hearing, which was delayed from its original date during the December meeting of the Board of Commissioners, in which lame-duck Commissioner DeWitt Knight served his final month on the board.
Weyerhaeuser’s appeal cites that the hearing was improperly delayed in the interest of presenting the zoning request before a "newly constituted Board of Commissioners". However, documents presented at the January meeting of the Board of Commissioners stated that the original December hearing was delayed as it was "not properly advertised."
Weyerhaeuser’s appeal also alleges that the Board of Commissioners violated a "conflict of interest" in failing to fully disclose matters of financial interest and campaign contributions. Neither Weyerhaeuser representatives nor members of the Board of Commissioners were able to comment on this allegation.
Weyerhaeuser did issue a statement regarding the appeal.
"We are hoping that we will be given another opportunity to present our data to the County Commissioners where we can review the environmental planning of the conservation overlay subdivision plan and th
e benefits it will provide to our community residents," part of the statement reads.
"Our goal is to get the subdivision going," said Janet McRainie, Regional Communications Manager for Weyerhaeuser. "We feel that it is a benefit to the community."
Board of Commissioners Chairman Michael Nabors stated that he believed that the board did not improperly deny the Weyerhaeuser zoning request, and that the board did not violate any part of the Zoning Ordinance.
At the time of publication, no trial date has been set regarding the appeal.