August 10, 2018
If you think developers and new businesses should have special rules over and above the citizens that live in Jasper County and that support the county with their taxes, this blog is not for you.
John Snow, the developer for the Peninsula at Jackson Lake, tried his best to convince the BOC to bypass the P&Z Board and the County ordinances concerning the acceptance of final plats for subdivisions at the BOC meeting Monday, August 6, 2018.
First, Snow explained he wanted to put up a $3.45 million bond instead of actually completing roads, putting in water lines, putting in the access lane, etc. The reason—so they could go ahead and sell lots within the next couple of months. Of course, he added “it would bring in tax revenue to the county quicker.” (How would that be, since it is already being taxed as land now?) Of note—the paving of Eagle Dr. was not listed as part of the bond items.
History, especially 2006-2008, shows us this is how bad developments come about. Counties let developers get by without following the ordinances or rely on the developer’s promises rather than actual completion of the project.
David Ozburn, the county attorney, explained that it was not in the ordinance to accept a bond in lieu of actual improvements to the property, and all requirements must be approved by the P&Z Board and the BOC before the final plat was approved. Unfortunately, he also added several maybe’s, could be’s, perhaps’, and other wishy-washy, confusing terms.
Instead of just saying, “Hey, sorry, but our ordinance says all improvements have to be in place, and a bond can’t take the place of the actual improvements,” there was 28 minutes of discussion on something that should have taken 5 minutes.
Comm. Don Jernigan, who represents the area where the Peninsula at Jackson Lake is located, wanted this bond to be approved. It was almost like Jernigan had talking points given to him by the developers so they could answer the right way and show the other commissioners how good they were.
How cozy is Comm. Jernigan with the developers? It is rumored that Jernigan had been wined and dined by the developers previously. He has certainly pushed this development from the very beginning, and has been willing to give them plenty of concessions.
The ordinance in place protects the county and the citizens of the county by making developers do what they said they would do. Comm. Salmon brought up having the P&Z Board change the ordinance to allow a bond. Why? Why is this BOC so ready and willing to help a developer bypass our county rules that are in place? If things don’t go well, will a bond really cover the entire cost of finishing up a subdivision? More than likely the taxpayers will help foot part of the bill.
Despite all the concerns laid out by the attorney, Comm. Jernigan was determined to get the bond approved by the BOC. He made the motion to accept the bond.
Comm. Jernigan eventually had to withdraw his motion for lack of a second. Additionally, Comm. Pennamon repeatedly, during the 28 minute discussion, questioned doing anything before the P&Z approved the final plat.
Comm. Salmon made a motion to table this issue because he wanted the P&Z to change the ordinance first. Comm. Henry 2nd the motion. The vote was 4-1 with Comm. Luke against. Luke said, “I voted against the motion because we need to follow procedure we have in place and not try to rush it or change it.”
Citizens, be informed and stay informed! Only by being informed, can the citizens understand what is being done and talked about, and then press our officials to make good decisions for everyone in Jasper County. That is our goal with the Taxdogs blog.