BOCC denies Sorrels Road land use change after public outcry

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WASHINGTON COUNTY – County commissioners approved four changes to the Future Land Use Map (FLUM) when the Washington County Board of County Commissioners met in regular session Thursday; however, one request was denied after objections were given from the public and denial was recommended by the Washington County Planning Commission.

Mark Odom was seeking a change classification of his property at 1776 Sorrels Road from low density residential to agriculture/silviculture. Odom made the request to have the land use change and the issue went before the Planning Commission, which subsequently recommended denial. A third-party planner was called in to evaluate the request due to Odom being a sitting member of the Planning Commission, but that planner did not give a recommendation either for or against.

Odom was granted permission in 2020 to erect a pole barn with a bathroom, office space, and room for four employees. Since that time, a few businesses have started running out of the barn, including an e-commerce business, a fabrication company, and a racecar mechanics shop. 

Neighbors say the activity has led to an increase of traffic, noise, and safety concerns and told commissioner that the land use change would exacerbate the issues.

Chris Kneiss, who lives directly across from Odom, told commissioners the safety concerns are a “serious issue.”

“From a safety standpoint, the traffic has tripled,” said Kneiss. “We have children that ride their bikes up and down the road. I have told them to stop because of the safety issues.” Kneiss also stresses the area is residential rather than commercial, and he and fears allowing the requested change would mean more commercial businesses would crop up.

Retired Judge Allen Register lives near Odom and says the noise is a large issue and urged commissioners to deny the request.

“We moved out to this area for the quiet,” said Register. “The noise is said to not happen after 5 p.m. or on weekends, but it does. I was on an evening walk and thought that an airplane was about to crash above me, but it was actually the revving of the racecar engines. Those of us that live there because it is quiet ask that you deny his request.”

Odom also addressed the board, stating the fabrication business had moved to a different location but the e-commerce business would remain, as would the racecars. Odom stated the issue wasn’t about the land use change, rather the “current climate of America.” 

“We either believe in our founding document where everyone has the right to the pursuit of happiness and to recognize their unalienable rights [or we don’t],” he said. “Right now, it appears that neighbors have more say about what goes on the property of those who have saved and worked to bring to life their version of the American dream.”

Chairman Tray Hawkins called for a motion to forward the request to the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) due to the proposed property change being considered a large-scale amendment. Commissioner Todd Abbott made the motion, but it died due to lack of a second. Ultimately, the request was denied.

The four locations that did receive approval on a request to change from agriculture/silviculture to low density residential were: 3000 Woodymarion Drive (4.71 acres), Dauphin Drive (1.93 acres), Fanning Branch Road (3.89 acres), and Holmes Valley Road (1.20 acres). 

In other business, FEMA Coordinator Kevan Parker presented bids for paving projects. Commissioners awarded those projects to C.W. Roberts which came in as the lowest bidder for each group of work. Those projects and bids were as follows: $1,601,741.45 for Clark Lane East, Lisa Lane, Suggs Road North, Walnut Circle, Pine Forest Road, and Mayhaw Lane and $2,359,669.46 for Alton Lane, Roland Road, Suggs Road South, and Harmon Road. Commissioners also approved advertisement for the paving of Carter Circle, Old Mill Road, Jessie Way, Shackelford Road, Houston Road East, and Farrell Nelson Road.

In other items, commissioners approved an increase in rental pricing for county-owned community centers and the agriculture center. Officials state this will “subsequently aid” in paying for a maintenance assistant position. The position’s duties will include cleaning the buildings, as well as cutting grass and maintaining the outside of the buildings. Community center rental fees will increase from $160 to $225, and the ag center fees will increase from $300 to $500. The prices reflect the new cleaning fee.

Commissioners also gave County Engineer Cliff Knauer the greenlight to issue a notice to proceed for work on Culpepper Landing. The park will be closed to the public beginning November 8 to allow for construction of a new boat ramp and kayak/canoe launch area. The park is expected to be closed for 120 days to complete the project.

Sheriff Kevin Crews was on hand at the meeting to present a plaque to the board in appreciation for their support of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office Rodeo. The county allowed use of by way of use of the Equestrian Center, an offering Sheriff Crews said was paramount to the rodeo’s success. 

“By allowing us to use the equestrian center, we are able to raise a large amount of funds for our biggest event of the year,” said Crews. “The rodeo is our largest fundraiser that goes toward the toy drive for underprivileged Washington County children and families. We cannot thank you enough for your help in making it an event that does so much to reach our goal.”

Finally, Clerk of Court Lora Bell was approved to pay vouchers for the month of September totaling $6,716,988.34.

The Washington County Board of County Commissioners will meet again in regular session at 9 a.m. on November 23.




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