York County rezoning decision meets with opposition

adouglas@heraldonline.comJuly 23, 2013 

After nearly two months of waiting, a York family of three is one step closer to moving into its new mobile home – although its neighbor and one York County Council member are voicing their opposition.

Marlon and Lou Kisha Wilmore bought their home on Longleaf Road from a Shelby, N.C., developer after they received a York County building permit in April that was issued in error.

The county’s mistake happened when at least one staff member failed to verify that the Wilmores’ land was appropriately zoned to allow for a mobile home.

On Tuesday, the York County Council gave its final approval to the Wilmores’ rezoning request, which clears the way for county officials to grant the family a certificate of occupancy after an inspection.

The Wilmores said earlier this month that they expect to move in sometime in August, depending on when the certificate of occupancy is issued.

The Wilmores did not attend Tuesday night’s council meeting, but one of their neighbors told the council that the county’s decision to rezone the land “squishes” his rights.

The neighbor, Tracy Ferguson, owns farmland surrounding the Wilmores’ home and lives on a nearby street.

A variance for the Wilmores’ home would be fine with him, Ferguson said, but not a rezoning, which changes the land’s zoning classification until the council votes to change it again.

The council does not have the authority to grant variances for land owners – that authority rests with York County’s zoning board of appeals, county officials said Tuesday.

The council could have denied the Wilmores’ rezoning request, Ferguson said, and recommended to the family that it seek a variance instead.

But, legally, council members can’t tell the zoning board of appeals what to do, said Councilman Chad Williams, who looked into that option and consulted with York County’s attorney.

A zoning variance is more limited in its scope than a land rezoning, Williams said, but would still allow for mobile homes in the future, even if the Wilmores moved their home off the land.

Still, Ferguson said the council members granted the rezoning request because they were afraid the Wilmores would sue them.

Since June, the Wilmores have paid about $1,500 a month for their mobile home mortgage and rent in another home until a certificate of occupancy is granted.

Tuesday’s rezoning could affect his property value, Ferguson said, and creates a health problem given the space that is needed between a septic tank and a well on the land.

Councilman Joe Cox – whose district includes the Wilmore and Ferguson properties – voted against the rezoning request Tuesday, citing similar concerns about S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control standards for the septic tank.

There’s not enough land to separate the Wilmores’ septic tank from the well, Cox said, adding that York County does not enforce the needed separation because it’s a state regulation for new homes.

Councilman Bump Roddey said giving the Wilmores a rezoning was “simply the right thing to do.”

Councilman Curwood Chappell agreed, saying that in a “free republic” the government shouldn’t be able to tell a family it can’t build a mobile home on its land.

Cox wasn’t happy that other councilmen voted against him, saying, “It floors me that we’ve done this in my district, when I’m the representative.”

Ferguson said he plans to build a fence around his property now that the rezoning request has been approved.

He’s looking into other options, he said, to appeal or take action against the rezoning for a mobile home.

County manager finalists to be named

Also on Tuesday, the council set a timeframe for its county manager search, which would whittle the roster of nine candidates down to a group of finalists by early August.

Names of the finalists could be made public as early as July 31.

The position has been vacant since January, with Assistant County Manager Anna Moore stepping in as interim county manager.

Once three to five finalists are chosen, county residents will be invited to meet them in a public reception on Aug. 12, said council Chairman Britt Blackwell.

A final decision will be made the day after the reception or at the council’s Aug. 19 meeting, pending closed-door interviews with the finalists.

“The sooner, the better,” Blackwell said, adding that he hopes the transition will be a smooth and quick one.

Anna Douglas •  803-329-4068 Reporter Jie Jenny Zou contributed

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