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The Lake News Online
  • Commission approves Gators' satellite lot, sends back other commercial plans

  • The commercial parking lot portion of a proposal for unzoned land along Bittersweet Rd. in Camden County that will act as satellite parking for Shady Gators Waterfront Bar & Grill has been approved by the Camden County Commission.
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  • The commercial parking lot portion of a proposal for unzoned land along Bittersweet Rd. in Camden County that will act as satellite parking for Shady Gators Waterfront Bar & Grill has been approved by the Camden County Commission. But the convenience store, related parking and resort cabins on the rest of the property will be going back to the Camden County Planning Commission for further review after some residents in the area complained that they had not received notice of the planning commission hearing on the case in March.
    The planning commission will take up the case at its July 16 meeting, so the issue will likely not return to the county commission until August or September.
    The underlying zoning of the entire 28.65 acres owned by Gary D. Prewitt Revocable Living Trust and Enowski Farms, Inc. has been set as low density residential (R-1) in a unanimous vote of the commission.
    On the 2.2 acres for the satellite parking lot, Associate Commissioners Bev Thomas and Cliff Luber voted for the related low density commercial zoning (B-1) with a conditional use permit to limit the area to that use.
    Presiding Commissioner Kris Franken abstained from voting. Franken has said he would recuse himself from voting on any decisions related to Gary Prewitt, developer and owner of Shady Gators, in part due to being the recipient of $1,500 in campaign contributions from three of Prewitt's other businesses.
    The motions to send the other parts of the proposal back to the planning commission were voted for by Thomas and Franken but against by Luber.
    The rest of the proposal included a convenience store with outdoor dining which included 122 parking spaces in addition to the 489 in the satellite parking area. Approximately 22 acres would be utilized for 44 proposed resort-type rental cabins.
    The notification issue apparently stems from how the P&Z Department gets addresses for the mailings. The department gets addresses from the county assessor's office for properties within 1,000 feet of the property in a case for mailing notification per the Unified Land Use Code.
    That process did occur in this case, but it is believed that some of the addresses may have no longer been correct. If properties are sold after the assessor's rolls are updated for the year and the owners' permanent addresses are not on-site, or if they have a post office box or if it's still a vacant lot, the notification might not make it to the current owner.
    Legal notification in the newspaper was also done properly.
    More than 100 letters were received by the planning commission after the legal comment period had ended apparently due to people finding out late about the issue.
    Word has since spread. The commissioners said they received 241 opposition letters and emails — counting multiple communication from the same person as one and separate letters from husband and wife as one. Of the total, 226 were from people residing in Horseshoe Bend.
    Page 2 of 2 - Close to 70 residents also attended the county commission hearing June 19 to oppose any commercial use of the 28.65 acres, and many spoke on the record about public safety concerns and the desire to conserve the residential nature of the area.
    After more than two hours of testimony in opposition to the parking lot and commercial uses, residents asked the commission to send the case back to P&Z for a rehearing.
    It should be noted that some 40 people attended the March P&Z hearing with most in favor of Prewitt's plans, though there were a few against. There were a handful of people at the county commission meeting in support of the Gary and Andy Prewitt and their proposal. The county commission also received 37 letters and emails in favor of it — seven of which lived in Horseshoe Bend.
    Due to confusion over the boundary of The Village of Four Seasons, the property went unzoned during the initial mapping for zoning by the county. As an unzoned property, the applicant for the case is Camden County P&Z.
    The county has a Urban Services Boundary Agreement with the village that allows the municipality a say in zoning cases within one and a half miles of the city. The agreement requires a supermajority of the planning and county commissions to pass an application that the village has voted against.
    According to Franken, the village board had the opportunity to comment but declined to do so.
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