Board president makes about-face, casts deciding vote on Bainbridge rezone

Friday, July 14, 2017

BAINBRIDGE -- Though the rezoning of a property belonging to Leon and Donna Tippin was hardly the focus during a strained town hall setting Wednesday evening in Bainbridge, members of the audience nonetheless came to the Tippins’ aid once it became apparent Board President Jerry Lents and Councilman Joel Thompson would not support their request.

But Lents, after initially stating he would not vote to rezone, even going as far as to take his vote and “bow out” of the spirited conversation, did a sudden reversal on the situation at topic’s end and voted in favor of the change, likely due to mounting pressure from fellow councilman Scott Curran and a perplexed audience.

His vote made the difference between approval and disapproval, allowing the property to be rezoned with via 2-1 vote (with Thompson dissenting “just for the heck of it”).

The Tippins, for undisclosed reasons, stated Wednesday they must find another place to dwell in the coming two to three years.

Considering they already own another piece of property, this one at 213 E. Pat Rady Way, the Tippins submitted a request to the Bainbridge town board to have the property rezoned from R-1 (single-family residential district) to R-3 (multi-family residential district) with hopes to build a pair of “comfortable and attractive” condominiums, rather than “four modular homes.”

However, despite utilizing the services of local contractor Shannon McCullough of McCullough Excavating of Bainbridge, and despite the prospect of the property potentially hosting modular homes rather than permanent condominiums, Lents and Thompson initially decided to follow the non-favorable recommendation of the Planning Commission, which came to a draw on the situation via 2-2-1 vote during a recent meeting.

“After that meeting I had several residents actually come to me, come to my house, stop me on the road, call me ... and everyone I talked to was against rezoning that,” Lents said. “So, my opinion right now ... I am not in favor of rezoning that. I’m going to leave it the way it is.”

Thompson’s comments echoed those of Lents.

“They’re long-term residents of Bainbridge, they bought that property and have been down there for a long time, and so has their families,” Thompson said, turning to address the Tippins’ potential future neighbors. “I understand why you’re concerned about something right off of the back of your property like that. The board also has to make a decision and we have to represent some of the residents of the town too on an issue like this, so really I’m not in favor of rezoning either.”

McCullough countered with some examples of his work history around Bainbridge and what could potentially go onto the property if not rezoned.

“Let’s put this into perspective,” he said. “We have four lots at 25-by-100 feet long, and we could put two single-family dwellings in there to meet all of the setbacks -- that can be two very nice modular houses or it could be two rundown modular houses. Take your pick. There’s your options. I’ve tried to set an example here (with previous homes) with a nice building, all brick. I redid the sidewalks, by the way, on the town’s behalf to try to give an example of what needs to happen in this town.

“There’s one option there,” McCullough continued. “The other deal is, we could sell these as condos. How many older couples are out here looking for a place that they don’t have to maintain and have their own unit? I’ve had several. I don’t understand what you guys are thinking here by voting against it because I’m adding more tax bases than an empty lot, we’re adding more utilities for this town, and you’re not gaining a darn thing but an empty grass lot sitting there right now. I don’t understand why there’s no development in mind.”

Mixing personal affairs with government, Thompson then suggested the Tippins and McCullough build a condominium in an grass field north of town, to which McCullough responded, “It may come to that.”

“But if we keep getting shot down like this, over something this small of scale, I’m probably not going to be too interested in doing too much more in this town,” McCullough said.

After long discussion and growing frustration with those in attendance, and after Thompson asked “Why don’t you just build some condos on it?” prompting laughter and malcontent from the audience, as that is exactly what he refused to approve, Lents seemingly acknowledged the situation and seconded a motion already in place by Curran to rezone the property.

Approval of the rezone should allow the Tippins to move forward with their plans.

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