Raul Rivera at Buckhead Council.JPG

Callidora Ranch founder Raul Rivera speaks to the Buckhead Town Council in April about annexing his 278 acres into the town to facilitate an agri-business venture.

A request for rezoning and possible annexation of Callidora Ranch that began in earnest in April will take several more months after the Buckhead Town Council met Monday and directed Morgan County Planning Director Chuck Jarrell to clarify allowable uses in a proposed new zoning district.

Callidora Ranch Attorney Dick Schmidt presented the council with an ordinance to amend Buckhead’s zoning ordinance produced by the Georgia Regional Development Commission to facilitate allowance of an ambitious and controversial agritourism business in Buckhead.

The plan, according to an ordinance draft, would include “a wide variety of activities such as… farm markets, roadside stands, U-pick operations, Christmas Tree farms, pumpkin patch, local products, retail operations (farm/ranch produced crafts and food products), corn mazes, recreational zip lines, agriculturally related events/fairs/festivals, walking and bicycling tours and trails, horseback trail riding and tours, RV/ATV farm or ranch tours, community organization picnic sites, farm/ranch weddings, rodeos, Agri-entertainment, Agritourism Retail, Agritourism restaurant and Agritourism Overnight Stays.”

However, Jarrell also presented a document from Morgan County that suggested the council could approve most of the uses Callidora was seeking without adding an Agritourism zoning declaration.

“Staff understands why you want to add the proposed language, however, we do not believe that the wheel should be reinvented, so to speak. The Buckhead Zoning Ordinance is arranged so that uses are listed as Permitted or Conditional by zoning district. If a use requires additional regulations, then language is provided to give parameters for that specific use,” the county’s document states.

A controversial request to allow a slaughterhouse within the scope of Callidora’s business model has been removed from any allowed uses.

On Monday, Schmidt began to show some frustration in the more than nine month process. Schmidt said he and Jarrell had worked together to create an avenue for allowing the ranch to exist. However, he told the council, “We can go with the county’s plan as long as it gives us the capacity we need.”

And that, he said, included allowing a 30-seat restaurant and a 20-room lodge facility. “Anything we go forward with will have to have the capacity for a lodge and a restaurant,” he said.

During citizen comments, Seaby Saffold, the husband of Buckhead Town Clerk Cheryl Saffold expressed frustration with the council. Seaby Saffold accused the council of losing a proposed Dollar General and, he said, a Buc-ee’s Travel Center. “You done shot Dollar General down, you done shot down Buc-ee’s…” he said. “When are we going to get a crumb?”

At the end of the discussion Schmidt asked Miller for assurance that the project was going to receive favorable consideration from the council. Miller said he could not predict how the council, or he, would vote if and when the application comes with a recommendation from the Morgan County Planning Commission.

“Do we spend the time and money to go forward when we know there’s a 50-50 chance we won’t get this?” Schmidt said.


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