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Property owner files lawsuit against county commission
Says denial of 272 housing units unconstitutional
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Dawson County property owner Bill Evans, and his corporation Dawson Forest Holdings, filed a lawsuit earlier this month against the county, board of commissioners and each of the commissioners for denying two of his rezoning applications last month.

If approved, the rezoning of two parcels of land on Hwy. 53 East from residential agricultural to residential multi-family would have allowed Evans to build 177 single family houses and 95 townhomes on nearly 73 acres of land near the Tractor Supply and Fire Station No. 2.

The commission unanimously denied the requests Dec. 13 saying they felt the developer's plans did not align with the future land use plan for that area.

In the complaint, filed Jan. 12, Evans states that the commission's refusal to rezone the parcels from residential agricultural to residential multi-family "not only violates plaintiff's constitutionally-protected rights to use its properties for any lawful purpose" but also "violate the mandatory rezoning procedures set forth in the Dawson County Land Use Resolution..." rendering the commission's decision invalid.

Evans laid out three reasons why the decision was made without compliance to the county's zoning procedures.

The developer argues that the county did not provide sufficient notice by failing to provide the specific information on the signs placed on the property, also that they did not provide sufficient notice by failing to mail notice letters to the adjoining landowners within a reasonable time before the Nov. 15 and Dec. 13 meetings. Evans also says that the planning commission did not submit a recommendation and statement of findings within 45 days after hearing testimony from all interested parties.

Evans said that the zoning classification was not on the signs that were placed on the property, and therefore not compliant with the county's zoning laws.

Evans also argued that the county acted against its own future land use plans in denying his two applications.

The county's future land use map recommends that the properties be zoned residential multi-family and residential planned community. As Evans wished to rezone the properties from residential agricultural to residential multi-family, he felt the rezoning was in accordance with the future land use plan.

The county said the reason for the denial was because of the developer's plans for the property.

The board did not feel that the density that the developer wanted for the property coincided with the proposed zoning in question.

"The future land use plan calls for something completely different from what they were planning to put there. If we're not going to follow the land use plan, what's the point of having it?" said District 3 Commissioner Jimmy Hamby on Dec. 14. "I'm not against development at all, but I want it to be quality development. It very well could have been, but the developers didn't have a real clear plan of what they were going to do with it. There were too many unanswered questions to pass it."

County Attorney Joey Homans said at last week's work session that he had forwarded the complaint to the county's insurer to determine if the county has insurance coverage for any of the claims.

The next step will be responding to Evan's complaint.

"I will begin drafting an answer, which will be due 30 days from the day of service, or from Jan. 19," Homans said.

The three applications were initially filed on July 8 and the county planning department presented the applications to the planning board, encouraging the board to recommend approval of all three of the applications to the board of commissioners.

The third property is located on 3.63 acres of land on Hwy. 53 with the Tractor Supply on the left and Dawson County fire station No. 2 on the right. It was successfully rezoned from residential agricultural to commercial highway business.

The planning board met on Nov. 15 and voted to recommend that the commission approve the commercial rezoning, but deny the other two, which was the eventual outcome.

Cumming-based law firm Miles Hansford & Tallant is representing Dawson Forest Holdings.